Awakening, freedom, Joy, Mindfulness and Meditation

Wake up in the morning and laugh

I have often marveled at the intense emotions that are waiting for me immediately upon waking.  Over the winter, I would find myself waking up feeling angry or at least very irritated.  “You just woke up,” I would tell myself, “how on earth can you be angry already!?”

Sometimes my anger would dissipate in the shower or as I brushed my teeth, but often I carried it with me into the morning, and it would affect my interactions with my husband and my children as they went off to school and certainly it affected my approach to my day.

While I realize that there are all kinds of reasons why I might wake up angry, and that my subconscious could well have been dreaming its way through my anger issues as I slept, I still had to deal with this emotion and come to terms with it in the light of day.

So I fell back on meditation, on the principles of peace and Zen to guide me and I found this quote:

Let me give you a wonderful Zen practice. Wake up in the morning…look in the mirror, and laugh at yourself.
~ Bernie Glassman Roshi

As I read it I did laugh, and I realized how seriously I was taking my life and my anger and that this wasn’t really serving me.

While the anger just needed to be felt, it was what I was thinking about my anger that was the problem. I was…getting angry at my anger. I was taking it so seriously, and I wasn’t accepting that it was there, that sometimes you just wake up mad. And as I stomped through my days trying to deny it, I was just strengthening the grip of the emotion I wanted to be released from.

Laughing at myself in the morning has been oddly liberating.  At first I would look in the mirror and start off with a few “ha-has” and even that made me so aware of how serious I was.  And you have to laugh at yourself laughing at yourself in the mirror because it’s somehow so delightfully ridiculous.

This practice really highlighted how I had forgotten to be joyful (after all, this was a new day, a fresh start) and how I was strangling the fun out of my life.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE THIS ARTICLE ON THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF LAUGHTER: LAUGHTER IS THE BEST MEDICINE AND THIS FREE MINI COURSE: 30 DAYS TO GREATER CALM

I knew just how seriously I was taking my one, beautiful life because at first when I started laughing in the morning I would sometimes cry, which was also a cathartic release of my anger and a sign to me of how long I had been letting my tension around anger build up. It was such a relief to let it go.

So…if you’ve ever woken up mad, sad, irritated, or even full of joy, I can wholeheartedly recommend looking in the mirror and laughing at yourself.

It is one of the fastest routes to joy I have ever found.

xo Shona

This article was originally published in April 2019 at A Life in Progress. 

 

 

Authenticity, Awakening, courage, freedom, Joy, Mindfulness and Meditation

How I found freedom in not being right

I have only recently come to terms with my pernicious need to be right…all the time.  I slowly started to recognize this tendency in me years ago when a particular person came into my life and mirrored the very same behaviour right back at me.  This provided fertile ground for conflict, as part of wanting to be right is its even darker side of insisting then that someone has to be wrong.  And there is just no kindness in that.

In my best moments, I can view this person with the same tendency as me, as a launching pad for growth, even a gift, for without them I never would have become so painfully aware of this part of my personality.

I would have continued to blindly go around making everyone feel small and wrong in order to serve my need to be right.

I can see now that no one was excluded: children, parents, husband, siblings, co-workers, even experts in their fields, at some point I would wear them down and make them concede…that I was right.  Now, because the need to be right has been flung back in my face so many times (literally EVERY SINGLE TIME I was with this person!), I have been forced to deal with it.

And I am flabbergasted at how long it has taken me to give up this habit but I persevere in the effort to let it go. I have an awareness now of when I am falling into “I am rightness” and I am slowly and systematically working on being kind rather then being right.

And I have noticed that, miraculously, as I made room for myself to not be right, it created space around the tension that had existed with this person for so long.

As I let go of the need to be right and – with a deep breath — embraced the possibility and reality that I could be wrong, this person became or certainly seemed less strident in their own need to be right.

It was like we were both stepping back and there was a buffer or a middle ground that offered a different way for us to relate that wasn’t about right and wrong.  The fact was, this person wasn’t pushing so hard to be right because I wasn’t offering something to push against. As often as I can, I just let this person be right…because it feels kinder than pushing back.

I can’t tell you it’s perfect.  I can’t tell you that I never feel the overwhelming urge to be right taking me over…but I can tell you that I am so much more aware of it now, thanks to the presence of this person in my life, and most of the time I can laugh at it and laugh at myself.

And so I’m not always right…but I’m free.

Free in the presence of this person, as I never have been before, and free to appreciate the grace that exists in all the people I know and love who figured this out a long time ago – that they could step back and make room for me to be right, even when I was wrong, because they were choosing to be kind, instead of right.

Xo Shona

Animals and Nature, Authenticity, Awakening, Joy

How to work with joy by giving up this one odious habit

“Comparisons are odious.”  -Popular fourteenth-century saying

Lately, I have been comparing.  Comparing myself to others, in a range of areas including but not limited to: how I look, what I am wearing, how far my leg stretches compared to the woman beside me in yoga class (because THAT’S what yoga’s all about, right there), who has more “likes” on Facebook, who is doing more seminars, who has an “in” with Oprah.

It is a distraction, it is a form of self-sabotage, it is odious.

I am certain of this not just because of how comparisons make me feel (small, miserable, defeated) but because of an experience I had last year with a hawk. Since moving to a small town in Ontario twelve years ago, I have delighted in almost weekly sightings of red-tailed hawks.  Their power and grace in flight enthrall me, and I am filled with joy whenever I see one.

So naturally I was drawn to reading “H is for Hawk” by falconer Helen Macdonald, about her experience of coming to terms with her father’s death through the acquisition of a fierce goshawk named Mabel and her struggles to tame and train her to hunt. The book jacket has it right: “it is a beautiful story about the hard-won trust between hawk and human.”

As I finished reading this book, I actually sighed with sadness and thought to myself: “This book is so beautiful, I will probably never write anything this good, or have that kind of relationship with a hawk.” In short, I was jealous of Helen.

Instead of celebrating the profound relationship that developed between her and Mabel, and being grateful that she shared this story with the world, and that it came into my hands, I was sad because I was comparing.

Comparison is the thief of joy. -Theodore Roosevelt

I felt like less. As if her words could diminish mine. As if her experience could diminish my own experience with and love for the hawk and all of nature.

Very shortly after finishing the book and the work of making myself feel like crap, I went downstairs and was standing at my kitchen sink looking out the window when a red-tailed hawk flew right past the window and landed on a fence post about 20 feet directly in front of me!

YES.

The hawk’s back was to me and as she perched she spread her wings out wide and flared her red tail feathers, before speeding off after her prey.

In that moment I was profoundly humbled.

And so I am not too proud to tell you that I burst into tears and although I was weeping, I certainly wasn’t miserable.

I felt redeemed.

I felt the weight of all those comparisons lifted from me and knew that the hawk, in the face of my self-doubt, had shown up to remind me of my worth and my work. To bring me back to joy.

As often as I can, I return to that moment of communion with the hawk to help me rise up from the shadow land of comparison, to help me focus on my own inner journey and not on what others may or may not be doing or working on or achieving.

It keeps me from letting comparisons bleed the joy out of my life.

It keeps me moving forward even when it’s hard, when my darkest thoughts tell me I will never be as good as or as committed as or as brave as…when comparison makes me want to quit.

Instead of giving up on our work and our dreams, we must learn to give up the habit of comparing ourselves to others.

I can look back now and see that there were times in my life when I gave up a project and even a dream because I felt that there was someone else doing it better, that I shouldn’t even try because my best efforts would fall short, or that my idea wasn’t as good as theirs.

For me the hawk is a light in that storm of defeating mind-chatter and I can trust her to bring me home to myself and to joy in my own work every time, and for that I am filled with love and gratitude.

If you feel trapped in the joyless, odious cycle of living by comparisons, I can help.

I know the terrain well and I can attest that once we learn to abandon our habit of comparing, instead of abandoning our dreams, we can more fully awaken to what calls us with a sense of joy, confidence, and renewed purpose.

Shona