setting 2016 intentions via the Art of Attention

We leisurely lounged on our family room couch New Year’s Eve: watching football, eating corn chips and queso, and searching for gym equipment on craigslist. (You’d think it would be a lot easier to get replies when you’re willing to pay cash and pick up ASAP. But that’s all another post.)

Also in the scene: my deck of Art of Attention healing cards.  These cards, inspired by positive affirmations and yoga poses, have found their way into my daily routine for the past few months. I pull a card every morning to consider throughout the day, even sometimes using the word on a selected card as a mantra for my yoga practice that week, also .

The deck came with another approach — a card reading where you considered a situation in your life, then picked three cards: one signifying the past, one the present and one the future. I pulled three cards with this reading technique in mind, considering the transition from old year to new.

art of attention

I had some initial thoughts, but my awareness settled quickly on the “future” reading: responsibility. I never thought myself as one who doesn’t take accountability for their life. I ground myself regularly in being in tune with what actions I’m taking in working towards defined goals and outcomes. But in certain circumstances, I found myself derailed by paralyzing fear — mostly of failure, but also of it not being exactly as I wanted it to be. Of it not being perfect.

Perfectionism is a tendency that has done me no good over the years. Striving for 100% is exhausting. It’s caused me to misplace my time and energy in stagnant moments of inactivity. Funny how when striving for 100%, I ended up at 0%. My drive for perfection actually lead me having nothing.

There’s a lot of room between 0% and 100%.  And when you find yourself too close to zero on a regular basis, especially in the things that matter most, there’s room for improvement. So what’s left to do?

BE BETTER.

This year, I am resolving to take responsibility to be better in those moments when the fear of striving for perfection haunts me. And from my experience in the past twelve months, here are more initial ways to embrace this:

Be a better family member. Above all, a better spouse. A better daughter and sister. A better dog mom. Also a better “tribe” member. These relationships get muddled when I get lost in anxiety. My ability to serve these people in my life to my fullest capacity gets compromised. And that’s just not okay any longer.

Be a better yoga teacher.   My teaching has grown incredibly since 2012, but there are aspects of what I’ve trained in that I’ve been afraid to bring to my classes — simply because I didn’t want to look like a fool if I screwed up the concepts upon delivery. No more of that ridiculousness. There’s too much goodness to share in this practice to let my insecurities hold me back from passing them along to my students.

Be better to myself. Anyone battling with negative self-talk gets asked “if you were talking to a good friend, would you say those things you say to yourself to them?”  Of course not, but that hasn’t kept me from treating myself like I’m unworthy of my own love. This may be my biggest opportunity for growth in the new year.  Early steps in this process include spending the next few weeks revisiting the recordings of my teacher’s The Enlightened Life Series with the Aspen Center for Living Peace. I re-watched the first session Sunday night, and in it, Rod asks the participants, “in what way can you be kinder to yourself?”  Perfect timing to hear that question again. Now to find ways to answer it…

But there’s an important differentiation to make here. The point is to be better — not perfectA personal mantra of mine has been “strive for excellence, not  perfection” to counteract the concern of never reaching 100%. This resolution can’t be muddled with “I’m not being ‘better’ enough” — talk about a lack of understanding of the point. It’s my responsibility to “be better” and accept how that looks in that exact moment.

As though the Facebook algorhythm knew this all was coming, it put a post that fellow healthy living friend Bex shared on her Facebook feed, fully capturing what has been stewing in my head: This life is of yours is 100% your responsibility. And that’s a 100% I can work towards.


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The Effects of an Extended Holiday Season

Breaking against tradition, my husband insisted on putting up our holiday decorations before Thanksgiving this year. I’m normally in the “give Thanksgiving its due, then celebrate all that December has to offer” camp. But he was insistent, saying it would put us in the holiday spirit faster. Yet just when I was supposed to put up a fight, something in me said “why not start celebrating early?”

Before I knew it, the Christmas tree was up, a balsam candle was lit and the Pandora “Michael Buble Christmas” station was playing 24/7. We were actively celebrating the holidays, even it if just meant we accomplished an hour of moving stuff from our attic to our family room. At first, it all seemed a little forced, or perhaps lonely — as though we threw ourselves a party and forgot to invite people. At least we knew someone was enjoying the decor…

Alicia and Grady

This really is just an excuse to include a photo of me crazy-dog-ladying before leaving on Christmas vacation.

…and then it was like everyone showed up late to the party, all at one time. My workplace celebrated its Thanksgiving feast a week in advance of the holiday, setting the tone for frivolity. On Thanksgiving morning, I would do one of my favorite things to do: teaching on holidays.  The energy of joy and gratitude from a room full of students is incredibly tangible. It feeds me for days — in this case, a little over a month.

It was the combination of several things — a late Thanksgiving with several meals over the course of three days, holiday networking events, my mom’s birthday mid-December, family and friend holiday celebrations scattered throughout the month and a road trip scheduled to visit Hans’ family for Christmas — that kept that joyous, gracious vibe alive. Every day had a celebratory moment in store, whether through festive get together, purchasing gifts, making a favorite holiday recipe or receiving a later-than-normal greeting card from a long lost friend. As a person who thrives on celebrations, loved ones and other extroverted tendencies, I felt alive. I felt happy. I felt contently energized.

After all the meals were eaten, all the presents opened and all the love shared, the celebrations came to an end. We found ourselves in that awkward week between Christmas and New Year’s when you don’t know what to do with yourself. You’re told you’re supposed to set new goals and intentions, but you’re too busy enjoying the current moment to want to figure out where you’re going next. And this year, instead of being lost in my usual surroundings of Northeast Ohio, we were in Florida, investigating more than what the Sunshine State had to offer.

alicia walking on the beach

Removed from our routine, meandering on a beach south of Clearwater, it came to me why this holiday season felt so much more enjoyable than others.  It was more than just the logistical, physical change of celebrating the season longer and on various days. What really took that feeling of the holiday spirit to the next level was was the mental shift. A “it doesn’t matter what date it is – I’m celebrating!” mindset that was set by putting our Christmas tree up just because it made my husband incredibly happy to see it in our home.

It didn’t need to be December 25th to feel that holiday spirit, and that feeling didn’t need to be confined to just the obvious celebratory activities. That mindset accompanied sneaking in early morning workouts, braving the malls to go shopping for gifts and buying groceries for the meal we were hosting. It was a mindset of celebration was actually an intense gratitude to be able to do it all: attend the parties, complete the chores, handle the discombobulation and stress that sometimes the holidays bring.

And on that beach in Florida pictured above, all that gratitude came to me — flooded me, if you will. And for the first time in six week, I stood still. I felt grounded in that gratitude for the opportunity that led me to my feet in the water of the Gulf of Mexico. I felt calm in the strong breeze blowing my hair into knots. And I still felt that incredible happiness that this holiday season provided to me.

Today feels like the day after a party I just threw, and, like any good party, there’s some clean up to do. 2015 gave me great opportunity — personally and professionally; mentally and physically — but not without some moments of tremendous sadness and difficultly.  Part of me wants to kick this year to the curb, and part of me wants to hold on to it for dear life. But I know offering my limitations up is the better path. Offering up that longing to linger in the “what if” of 2015 to make space for the potential of a new year. For more gratitude in no matter the situation. For more celebrations — and just because we can.

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2015 New Year’s Resolutions, Intentions and Ramblings

2014, I did not see you coming. I knew 2013 would be a doozy to top, but this past year took me to new places: in travel, in my career, in relationships.

2014

Some of my favorite moments from last year.

While the last twelve months meant serious commitment (read: a lot of hard work and hard decision making) to reaching goals, every ounce of energy used in 2014 was worth the expenditure to get me to where I am on January 1 of the next year.

So, what does 2015 have in store?

I’m not one against setting resolutions. Finding resolve to motivate you forward can be quite the empowering undertaking. I set these resolutions last year — I feel like I can still embrace them this year:

  • Meditate daily. (New practice journal already obtained. YogaGlo.com subscription on monthly renewal. Ready to buckle down, push how long I sit for, and find ease in the process.)
  • More strength training. (Considering my runner’s knee diagnosis in 2014, you’ll see more weights and Yoga Tune Up® in my feeds. Get excited, ’cause I am.)
  • Drink more water. (Waterlogged app reinstalled on my iPhone. Committing to continuing my 32 oz. a day to start — working towards at least doubling it by end of the month.)

And there was one last resolution from 2014 that stops me in my tracks: letting go of “perfect”. I knew it would be the most difficult for me, but I needed to release control of every.single.thing and let life come to me.

Since setting that resolution, there were moments of stubbornness, confusion and many tears in giving up as much of this tendency. While there was much joy in 2014, too much of the year was spent back in places of anxiety and old habits — usually with the question “what have I done?” (and in true Alicia form, said in an overdramatic fashion. #onceatheaterkidalwaysatheaterkid)

To be perfectly honest: it’s exhausting. And I’m exhausted of being exhausted from always giving the need of control that much energy. It’s time for a change — and what better day to kick it in to gear.

I’ve been spending the past few months picking up my teacher’s book, The Four Desires, flipping open to a random page and soaking in what teachings it contains. And in a frank conversation on New Year’s Eve, I found myself paraphrasing this quote of Rod Stryker’s from this exact book:

“Don’t postpone your happiness. The question to ask yourself is, how bad does it have to feel before you are motivated to act differently and effect real change in your life? You can decide today that the price of not changing is too high, and that you refuse to stay just as you are. It’s up to you.”

So what if 2015 was dedicated towards fully embracing change, and even being the one to suggest it? What if in letting go of the need of perfection, the BS and the distractions, I could tap into what my soul really wanted? And what if after all the calamity from it settled, I found what I was truly looking for  — in the stillness, in the calm, in the quiet moments of contentment that remained after?

It’s time to do more than just survive. It’s time to thrive — and to the fullest level. And 2015, you seem like the perfect year to do so.

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