Speaker • Writer • Consultant • Yogi
No stories, no drama, no therapy
just actionable tools that work, guaranteed.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
26 January 2014. | Sisters, Oregon, USA
JEFF SANDERS RELEASES PARADIGM SHIFTING TOOLBOOK
TO INCREASE VITALITY AND REDUCE RESISTANCE
The Discomfort of Happiness, Mastering the Art of Vitality
contains 51 lessons with movements, exercises and meditations to increase vitality and reduce resistance.
Living a vital and fulfilling life becomes effortless as you deconstruct your resistance, fears and demands. This is a book of dogma-free tools that can be personally experienced. No belief required. Healthy growth and adaptation require healthy discomfort. When you are able to sense your edges, identify your compensations and understand the fears and demands behind your stories, you can begin to make different choices before you react habitually. Your dysfunctions become obstacles to avoid, not problems on which to focus.
From the introduction: One day angels thwacked me in the head. “Jeff,” they harmonized, “what if everything you believe is wrong?” Then they laughed and continued laughing … for a really long time. That was what I had been waiting for, the SIGN! I started to examine every belief I had. I looked at my truths, which I discovered were mostly other people’s opinions that I had co-opted and accepted as fact. When I deconstructed these truths, I found fiction, dogma and hyperbole. I came to realize my truths were not factual - they were familiar.
In the spring of 2005, Jeff Sanders spent a week at a meditation and Yin Yoga retreat. Seven months later, the business he built over 27 years was sold. He unloaded the vast majority of his possessions, ended a 20 year marriage, became a yoga instructor, spent an intense month of yoga and bodywork training in Costa Rica and started a four year alternative medicine program. Read more at www.discomfortofhappiness.com
• The Discomfort of Happiness - Mastering the Art of Vitality, Lessons 1-51 (ISBN-13: 978-0615900292)
Jeff Sanders (541) 647-9254 firstname.lastname@example.org
Jeff Sanders – Age 54, currently residing in Sisters, Oregon, USA
At one point in his life, Jeff was joyfully exercising 8-10 hours a day (surfing, weightlifting, mountain biking and yoga). He had two amazing and beautiful school-age daughters, a successful business, big house, fancy cars and a healthy income. Although he was living the American dream and incredibly fit, he was still feeling stressed and overwhelmed. He was unhappy, disgruntled, and longing for something different. He felt like he was in the wrong place, doing the wrong thing and that there was something else out there. He was a mid-life crisis waiting to happen. The only consistent and constant joy in his life was spending time with his daughters.
In the spring of 2005, Jeff spent a week at a meditation retreat. Seven months later, the business he built over 27 years was sold, he unloaded the vast majority of his possessions, ended a 20 year marriage, became a yoga instructor, spent an intense month of yoga and bodywork training in Costa Rica and started a four year alternative medicine program at the Barbara Brennan School of Healing.
In late 2010, he moved from Southern California to Central Oregon with his sweetheart, Kelly, and began working on a new modality from the premise “What if everything I believe is wrong?”
Jeff is the father of two spectacular daughters and a precocious granddaughter. He is an avid trail runner, mountain biker and motorcyclist. He writes, teaches and consults worldwide.
Sarcasm: to strip flesh (Elephant Journal - June 2, 2014)
Sarcasm:to strip fleshOne of my teachers was sarcastic, elegantly sarcastic.
Elegant, because she contrasted it with a loving continence, easy laugh and warm, watery eyes.
She was welcoming—until she wasn’t.
Sarcasm comes from the Greek σαρκασμός (sarkasmos), which means “to strip flesh.” Lovely image, eh?
That’s what it felt like with her and although I’ve never had my flesh stripped, I have had plenty of mountain bike crashes where my flesh has been ground away by rocks and dirt.
It happens fast with a vibrancy that is hard to replicate. One minute I am riding along, fluidly conjoined with my bike and the trail and in an instant—bam! I am lying in a heap, bleeding, wondering where I went wrong.
For one of the chapters in my book, I began to investigate sarcasm, the cause, the effect and the pre-causal environment.
Here is my current hypothesis. Sarcasm is a distancing mechanism from the discomfort of intimacy.
The teacher is a big personality with lots of charm, knowledge, intelligence and charisma. She has a vast capacity to be present and empathetic. She is a great instructor with a startlingly mystical ability to present something personally relevant.
So, people, myself included, seek her out. We want to be close. It feels good. We lower our defenses.
As we lower our defenses, the energy we were expending to maintain that defense isn’t spent. If it isn’t spent we get energized. We get so energized, we want to share our energy with her.
She feels our expansion, feels the energy coming her way and begins to take it in. She takes it in until she gets full.
We all have a range of energy (vitality) that we are comfortable with. When we get to the edge of our comfort zone, we begin to look for ways to diffuse.
We begin to feel overwhelmed by our own vitality and our systems look for some way to regain stasis, our comfort zone.
I think this is the primary purpose for our personality. We do what we do as a way to stay comfortable. When we find something that works, we do it more often. Pretty soon, it becomes habit. We do it more and more often until we can’t separate those habitual reactions from who we are. We become what we habitually do.
Back to sarcasm. She was feeling our expansion, metabolizing the energy coming her way and it filled her system. She has a big container, she can take in a lot of appreciation, gratitude and adulation.
But at some point, she would get over-full and then over-full would transition to overwhelm. Overwhelm would trigger the desire to stop the incoming energy and to vent the excess.
And one of the cards at the top of her venting deck was sarcasm. Maybe it was modeled by her parents, her peer group or demographic region. She may have grown up in a sarcastic household, with sarcastic friends or in an area of the country prone to sarcasm pandemics. She may have had a sarcastic teacher, coach or mentor. At some point and in some way, she discovered how efficient it was as a way to return her to her comfort zone.
Here is how it works.
First, the sarcasm releases an explosion of energy. A few words, heavy with import, expelled to get relief. Second, it creates distance. When I was the object of her diffusionary tactics, I would shrink. If she is shrinking from releasing energy and I am shrinking from the rebuke, we are getting farther apart.
Picture yourself holding a balloon in each hand. Picture them magically inflating. As they inflate, they get closer and closer until they are pushing against each other. Now picture the balloons deflate, their relative distance does not change but their perceptual distance does. You can also picture the distancing even if only one of the balloons deflates.
Sarcasm allowed her to reduce her overwhelm and momentarily stop the flow of incoming energy.
If intimacy is the empathetic communion between two people or a group of people, then sarcasm, the stripping of flesh, is it’s evil twin.
After I formed my hypothesis, I tested it. I began to watch for the times I was flesh-stripping and began to evaluate my vibrancy and my need to distance. Sure enough, every single time I was sarcastic or felt the need to be sarcastic, I was trying to create separation and relieve the discomfort of my overwhelm.
Before I felt the need to be sarcastic, I was overtly vital. I was energized to the point of discomfort. My desire to be sarcastic was rooted in my desire to return to my typical range of vitality.
I could also feel just how unkind sarcasm is.
I could feel how I was trying to wound, to injure, to push people away, just so that I could return to a place of comfort.
A large part of my current practice is discerning my edges. I know that when I am at an edge, my mind begins to conjure ways to regain stasis. Discerning and then tolerating the discomfort of my edges allows for adaptation. I adapt and grow when I tolerate healthy discomfort.
“A tart temper never mellows with age, and a sharp tongue is the only edge tool that grows keener with constant use.”
~ Washington Irving, The Sketch Book (1819).
The Ball andthe F#@%ing ChainThe Ball and the F#@%ing Chain (Elephant Journal - May 10, 2014)
“If either the absence or the presence of novelty is equally annoying, it would hardly seem that either could be the true cause of despair.” Bertrand Russell, The Conquest of Happiness (1930)
In the early 1990’s I had a vasectomy. I talked to my snipped friends, did some research and picked the “best” doctor in Ventura, California. I will call him “Dr. Gold.”
Here is my recollection: I arrived on the prescribed day and was prepped before being given a sedative. I was alone on a hospital bed wearing a cloth gown with my junk and jewels proudly displayed and in walked the 14K doctor and another doctor. He asked me if it was acceptable if the second doctor assisted him. I said “yes.”
That “yes” was a decision I still regret.
Dr. Gold stood on the one side of the bed and talked his way through as he performed the procedure on the left side and then talked the other doctor, I’ll call him “Dr. Butcher,” through the procedure on the right, allowing Dr. Butcher to actually do the work.
So … the doctor I have researched and selected, the doctor I am paying for, snips my left and someone with limited experience, surgically altered my man macadamia on the right.
A vast difference for my Vas Deferens.
Dr. Gold told me in the pre-procedure meeting that I might have residual pain, possibly for a lifetime. He also said that had never happened to any of his patients.
It happened to me. Apparently, Dr. Butcher nicked a nerve.
(Fun facts: The Cremaster muscle surrounds the testicle and attaches to the internal oblique, contracting for protection. Females have this muscle too, although undeveloped. Cremaster is derived from a Greek verb meaning “I hang”)
It has been 20 years and rarely does a week go by without some degree of discomfort. Sometimes it is a nagging twinge, sometimes a dull ache and sometimes it is more severe, radiating up into my abdomen, making me nauseous.
In the moments of intense sensation, I long for the twinge. When it is a twinge, I wish to be pain-free.
I deeply resent Dr. Gold for putting me in the position to make a decision 30 seconds before surgery after I had been prepped AND medicated.
I am very disappointed with my 32-year-old self for not standing up and saying, “Are you nuts? F#$@ no, that’s not okay!”
My 53-year-old self is fearful that the pain is going to continue, get worse or impair my ability to enjoy life’s carnal pleasures.
When I am focused, immersed and passionate about what I am doing, the pain is background static, easily ignored, regardless of its intensity.
I have come to understand that I create labels and stories about pain when I am looking for excuses to be distracted.
Subjectify: Proceeding from or taking place in a person's mind rather than the external world. Formed, as in opinions, based upon a person's feelings or intuition, not upon observation or reasoning.
Objective pain, subjective label.
Depending on what else is going on in my environment, my testicular pain is either very important, of equal importance, discounted or forgotten. I subjectify the pain. I subjectify the blame, resentment, self-disappointment, humiliation and guilt.
Compared to nausea, a twinge can be a great thing or something not given much thought. If I have been pain-free, the twinge can be deflating and defeating.
The objective amount of sensation in the twinge is the same regardless of how I value it.
I am deciding in every moment how much attention I want to give my current set of sensations. And that is just as true for everything else in my life. Pain, pleasure, history, trauma, relationship, future, they all have only the value I choose to give them.
I have the ability to classify my environment according to my intentions and the direction I want to go. I can allow things to diffuse and distract me or I can let them be, without giving them attention.
I have the ball, I can create a chain and clasp the shackle … or I can choose something else, something interesting, fulfilling and fun.
The Uncomfortable ListenerThe Uncomfortable Listener (Elephant Journal June 3, 2014)
Hi, my name is Jeff and I am a problem solver. If you have a question, concern, issue or dilemma, I have an answer—or will find one.
It is one of the things that supported my success in business. I could find solutions and develop systems to ensure safety, stability and efficiency. I am extremely good at it.
During the evolutionary process of writing a book, I fundamentally changed my perception of problem solving, how I communicate, why I communicate and my primary motive for communication.
I realized that as a problem solver I was looking to affirm, maintain or encourage my own safety, to ensure a continued zone of comfort. Problem solving kept me in my happy place.
I spoke to convince people or things to change into something that I was more comfortable with, to alter or change to something to keep it within my existing value and belief systems.
I talked because I was fearful of the future. If I could assist the people around me to be comfortable and safe THEN I could be comfortable and safe. I was habitually determining my safety based upon my perception and interpretation of my environment and those in it and my projections about what might happen at some point in the future.
When I judged “now” as less than safe, I would try to fix it. To appease my fears, I would make an effort to control, manipulate and seduce circumstances. Those efforts were the solutions I offered, the advice I gave and the options I highlighted.
If my partner, children, friends, associates, or employees were less than my vision of perfect (non-threatening), I would look to “help them” into being “safer” so that I would feel safer.
I had convinced myself I was trying to help; that I wanted only what was best for them, that I was being logical or highlighting options. I was problem solving!
I complimented myself for being overtly sympathetic and delightfully empathetic.
But now, I am feeling like I was … just being epically pathetic and disgustingly emetic.
(Emetic: to cause nausea or vomiting)
This realization led me to seek silence, to become a listener. I started with my partner and daughters, as they are the people I talk to (and try to regulate) the most. Years ago, I would spend hours talking to my younger daughter, trying to convince her to think and act in a way that I assured her would be “better” but in reality, it just felt safer for me. It was extremely ineffective.
In my new role as “the listener,” I would listen, affirm what they were saying, track the discomfort associated with my fears, and watch for the urges to direct, redirect, convince or coerce them into thinking, feeling and acting differently (in some way that was acceptable and comfortable for me).
I gradually got better at it.
Initially, it was “@#$%, I did it again” some time after the conversation ended.
Then, it was “@#$%, I’m doing it again” during the conversation.
And finally, “Success! I stopped myself from doing it.”
Now, it is unusual to succumb to the urge. It is easier to listen because I am allowing my safety to be determined internally.
When I realized I was seeking my safety externally, I began to evaluate my actual safety. The overwhelming majority of the time, I am safe regardless of what happens around me. Moreover, if I am safe, I can stop spending energy trying to control something that doesn’t need to be controlled.
If I am not depleting myself, my actual safety increases.
I finally gleaned that my safety was not externally determined.
Glean: To gather by degrees, to accumulate with patient and minute labor; to pick out; to obtain, to make a collection. (Fun fact: a glean of herrings is 25, as decreed by Edward I in the 13th Century.)
The by-product and the biggest benefit I have gained from this practice is my acceptance of those around me, who they are, where they are and how they are. I am able to be more intimate and present because I am not generating future scenarios and the possible solutions to some fictional future.
Recognizing my internal safety as they navigate their lives allows me to love people more fully without trying to make them better.
But, don’t get me wrong, I’m not completely cured. If they ask for my opinion … or want a problem solved, I am still their guy.
Cure TensionHeadachesCure Tension Headaches and Everything Else that Ails and Fails (Elephant Journal 6/20/2014)
All of the things that we do that don’t serve us might be likened to tension headaches.
Generally, tension headaches are caused by the static and prolonged contraction of the muscles in the head, jaw, neck and shoulders, also known as tension. Makes sense!
We always have some degree of contraction in our tissues. Muscle tone maintains posture. If we didn’t have some muscle contraction our heads would be flopping around on our necks and our mouths would always be open. Not a pretty sight.
But when enough becomes too much, tone becomes tension, and tension can become a headache.
Think for a moment about the typical sequence of events when a headache surfaces.
Most people take over-the-counter medications: get headache, take something, headache goes away…until the next time (and the next time) and then the pattern becomes a habit.
We may start buying larger and larger bottles of medications. We might even start taking something if we think we are going to get a headache.
Then again, we might not take medication at all. We might meditate, bathe, see a chiropractor or apply ice while singing old reggae songs. We might just tolerate the pain with a growl, grunt and grimace.
The point is, we address the headache in some fashion.
The thing to note is that we are treating the labeled problem (headache) and its symptoms (pain) but doing nothing to solve the underlying issue.
If we are doing something to treat a problem, the problem must already exist or we are projecting that it is going to. Our focus is on the problem, our dysfunction (in this example, the headache).
Our attention is on the result of the tension instead of the tension itself.
What if we could identify when tone began to shift to tension?
If we have the self-awareness tools or discernment to detect the change in state (tone to tension), we can be proactive.
When we sense our neck beginning to tighten or the desire to clench our teeth arising, we can take action.
We can loosen our shoulders, jaw and neck with targeted, effective movements.
If we act before the muscles are in a death clench, it is easier, doable and effective.
If we can learn to fully and subtly perceive our physical state, we can use that ability to ensure that tone doesn’t become tension. If tension never happens, tension headaches never happen. Never. Tension is the precursor to a headache.
Like tension precedes headaches; anger, addiction, stress, frustration, jealousy, blame, poor relationships, stalled career and depression all have pre-symptom and pre-result states.
The pre-symptom and pre-result states of our dysfunctions have components, just like the parts that make up a tension headache.
If we start to investigate what was present before we became emotionally dysfunctional (angry, sad frustrated, etc.), we can begin to alter the components.
I call this deconstruction, finding the parts of the dysfunction and determining which of them, or which combinations of them, put us into a state of overwhelm—leading us to reaction and dysfunction.
When we have an understanding of the components, we can start looking for solutions.
Some will be simple; others will take some willpower.
If any of the components seem too overwhelming to change, deconstruct them and alter one or more of the subcomponents. It is a process and a practice, but it works every time.
What I have found is that my tension (and stress) is a presumption of future pain, not actual pain. I was worried about what might happen or not happen at some point after right now.
Worry put me into a defensive posture. Worry was the creation of stories about how I might be attacked. The preparations included tensing my trapezius muscles, which led to headaches (actual pain).
I learned to feel for the change in state, transition, from relaxed to not relaxed. The sooner I can discern a change, the easier it is to relax.
When we are able to discern our transitions, we can forestall dysfunctions.
If we can feel ourselves moving toward becoming mad or sad, we can make adjustments! Adjustments keep us balanced and moving in the direction we want to go.
Initially, we might need to make big adjustments, but as we get better at staying balanced, our adjustments will be more subtle.
As we stay balanced, we generate momentum.
Momentum leads to effortless progress, fluid success, happiness and fulfillment.
Awareness + deconstruction + choice = Change.
My Dad And Why I Couldn’t Forgive
Blame, Scapegoats And Comfort Zones
I spent a few days last week with my dad. During my visit, a desire welled up to forgive him for all of the times I have judged him harshly. I was enjoying my visit, loving our time together and appreciating him for who he is right now. I can feel his love for me. He is open and appreciative. He sparkles.
I had a really hard time empowering myself to forgive. I was too attached, or more accurately, addicted, to the blame.
On my 5 hour drive home and in the days that followed, I came to two major conclusions.
The first conclusion was easy. I use blame as a vent for the feelings of overwhelm,
stress and fear.
I use blame as a way to moderate my vitality, to maintain a familiar range of emotion, intimacy, creativity and vigor. Blame drains me. It keeps me small, limits my growth and neutralizes any momentum I muster.
Blame is a habit, it is about wanting to regain my comfort zone. I use blame the same way I use ice cream and blueberry muffins. They give me a quick jolt and then bring all of my systems down a few notches as my body tries to regain its balance. The high and crash cycle. I get all worked up, mentally masturbate and then emogasm until I am spent … and feeling comfortably underwhelmed.
My second realization hit me like a brick.
I use him (the blaming of him) as a scapegoat because I don’t like myself.
I started by taking a look at what I thought I was blaming him for. It was nonsense, the railings of a child not getting his way. None of it had any current value. Most of it was vague recollections and held resentments. It was all past-tense drama that I was
choosing to hold on to.
I was using him like a dirty mirror.
I realized I was choosing to project all of the things I don’t like about myself onto him. I created stories, regurgitated the past, projected, damned and condemned …
I fueled the blame until it burned brighter than my desire to forgive.
Underlying it all is a strong irrational desire to change the past so that my present can be different, so that I could be different.
Not gonna happen. What happened, happened. Shit can’t unhappen.
When I was a kid, I blamed him because he wasn’t around. I felt lonely and wasn’t emotionally mature enough to value aloneness. I felt unsure and afraid and was not sufficiently mentally developed to own that all growth comes from discomfort and every fear is a projection.
I can’t use those excuses now. I know better.
So here is what I know and my path to change.
For me, the answer to end my addiction to blame and stop struggling to forgive isn’t finding a better way to forgive, being kinder, more empathetic, compassionate or more “spiritual.”
The answer is to remove the blame, to unblame. To accept. Acceptance isn’t anything other than acknowledging the actuality of my past. It doesn’t imply any sort of justification, surrender … or forgiveness.
I intend to retire my need for the past to be different.
I will accept myself for how I was and how I am. I will stop when I hear that blame voice in my head and let another voice in my head emphatically say “It is not about them; what are you not liking about yourself now and why are you trying to deflate yourself?” I will view the “dredging up the past, blame someone and vent cycle” as a sign that I am energized. I will let the blame cycle be a sign of success, a signal that I have more energy than is currently required and I have the capacity, right then, to move powerfully forward.
I will ask myself if there is a better place I could use the energy I am about to expend blaming and then ask these questions: What do you love? Who do you love? What goals and intentions do you have? Is there an action you could take, right now, that would allow you to love, be or do more?
There always is and I am practicing this mantra:
Don’t think, Dive in, Immerse yourself in action.
The Discomfort of KindnessThe Discomfort of Kindness (Elephant Journal - April 18, 2014)
My stepfather Dick (not a pseudonym) is incredibly kind.
He is so kind it often makes others around him uncomfortable. His kindness enervates a room and can trigger others to tease or to create an opposing position. He is my role model for interpersonal relationships. He searches for nice things to do, especially for my mother.
He is regularly, persistently and unceasingly complimentary. He sees the best in others and then voices it. He encourages, supports and positively mirrors. And he thrives. It is a fuel for him. He has been doing it non-stop for all of the thirty eight years I have had the pleasure of knowing and learning from him. Being nice to my mother moves his energy, is appreciated by mom and respected by me. The price of the nice spice is returned not twice but thrice.
In the process of writing the book, The Discomfort of Happiness, I wanted to explore my resistance to that level of kindness, my desire to control or moderate the verbal appreciations I allowed or disallowed myself to express.
So, I tried to be a Dick.
Throughout the day, I actively searched for people, things, situations and actions to compliment or verbally appreciate. When I found opportunities, I tried to be curiously attentive to my degree of difficulty in expressing them. I tried it with my daughter, my sweetheart, and with my friends. I tried it with people I would meet on the trails or in the grocery store.
What I came to realize was that identifying opportunities to compliment created potential. It unleashed some held energy inside of me. As that released potential energy began coursing through my body, it filled me—past the edge of my comfort zone. I had habituated to a level of energy to somewhere below what I was experiencing. I would begin to feel anxious and resistant. Making an effort to verbally express kindness was stressing me out!
The discomfort of my resistance had a somatic connection. I started to feel for the types of appreciations that tugged on my leash. I felt for the times I wanted to sit on the compliment or be a heel. I looked for where I hesitated and what that hesitation felt like. I learned to feel the hesitation as sensation in my body. Was I holding my breath? Did the compliment feel stuck? If so, where? I explored the somatics of kindness and my resistance.
I could feel it. I could feel the words stick in my throat. I could feel compliments as pressure at the base of my skull and as a tightening in my stomach. My shoulders would begin to roll forward and up. My low back would flatten as my tailbone tucked under. These things were all subtle movements. I didn’t turn into a Smeagle, I was only vaguely Smeaglish.
Resistance was isometric. There was the energy that wanted to move (the compliment) and the energy that it took to hold it, slow it or stop it (the reluctance.) I came to understand that my resistance was fear, fear of expansion and connection. It was the fear of unknown consequences. It was the A of happiness and success.
I was afraid of the positive consequences of being kind.
I came to realize that delaying, moderating or stifling compliments took more energy than expressing them. I could feel the difference between holding and flowing. The energy required to hold compliments deflated me back to a level that I was comfortable with. As I realized this, as my awareness increased, I was able to tolerate the healthy discomfort I felt. As I tolerated the discomfort, I adapted to a greater level, a larger zone. My Pranasphere increased.
Being explicitly kind became emotionally liberating. I can get high being nice. Kindness can be ecstatic.
Eventually, I hope to be a Total Dick!
Rocking SocksCodependence of the MatRocking Socks and the Codependence of My Yoga Mat (Elephant Journal - April 29, 2014)
When I tried yoga in socks for the first time, it changed the value I place on my mat, forever.
Its reverence became a reference.
Collusion: Another word for codependence. Two diffusionary forces working together in an empathetic dissipation or accumulation of energy potential. Ensnaring someone, something or others into my need to disperse or absorb vitality, a conspiracy of dysfunction.
Try a Warrior pose in socks on a slippery floor and you might find just how unstable and ineffectual your mat allows you to be. I did.
The mat colludes with the inability or the challenge of holding a pose without assistance. In this case, the assistance (and collusion) is the friction provided by a mat.
The mat allowed me to believe I was self-sufficient.
Explore how your ability to move into and hold the pose changes. You will feel muscles fire in a completely new way. It will be uncomfortable, fear and doubt will pop up and try to get your attention. It will bring you into the moment.
Eliminating the collusion of my mat changed my perception of the movement. It fostered independence and self-responsibility. It increased my awareness.
Yoga in socks requires presence, a focus on a physical center, a Hara line, a summation of the Sushumna.
Summation: (physiology) The process by which multiple or repeated stimuli can produce a response in a nerve or muscle that one stimulus alone cannot produce.
When I did my first full sun salutation, slowly and carefully, in socks (hands and feet), I could track how I physically compensated and how my edge, the place where comfortable transitions to uncomfortable, changed. There were mental and emotional compensations too as fear and uncertainties were triggered. I invented stories and justifications but I could begin to feel the pose from the inside out.
I label myself a Jnana Yogi. This is Jnana Yoga. It is curiosity coupling with attention, climaxing in a direct, personal, experience. The value I gave my mat was fictional, based upon my images, beliefs and fears.
I started looking for circumstances where I was letting people or things in my environment collude with my weaknesses, linear biases and asymmetries.
Once I had a direct experience of rocking the socking, I could relate it to the feeling of being self-sufficient, in any and every pose. My core strengthened and movements became spherical instead of linear. The balancing of my body began to exist without a mat … or a teacher … or a studio and without something labeled as a practice.
My yoga mat kept me weaker and limited my growth. It pandered to my predispositions.
After this realization, I started replacing yoga mat with running shoes, sugar, relationships, caffeine, anger, demands and all of my other dysfunctionary tendencies, the peculiarities of my personality.
I began to gain an awareness of where I was codependent and whom I was allowing to collude with me. It was a long list that is gradually getting shorter.
I like socks.
Diet Coke -Addiction and FreedomDiet Coke - Addiction and Freedom (Elephant Journal - April 30, 2014)
“Each year one vicious habit discarded, in time might make the worst of us good.” Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanack (1738)
I had a screenprinting and embroidery business for 27 years that I started when I was 17. It grew into a 30,000 sq. ft., 100 employee enterprise. For a period of time, I would stop on the way to the office and get a GIANT Diet Coke. I eventually realized I didn’t really want the soda … I just did not want to go to work. My job had devolved into putting out fires, listening to five different department heads complain about the same problem and then making a decision that would mollify none of them.
Flooding my system with chemical sugar substitutes and caffeine became an addiction that diffused the discomfort I felt for what I projected would await me. The soda served to distract my systems (physical, mental and emotional) by giving them something else to focus on. The sugar and caffeine affected me physically. I emotionally beat myself up for drinking that kind of crap and mentally punished myself for being weak and addicted.
The energy potential that I created with my projections infused my system to the point where I was uncomfortably energized. I labeled it stress and anxiety. I didn’t like it, it was uncomfortable. I wanted it to change. I wanted to return to something less full.
So, I deflated myself back to my comfort zone by tormenting my liver with chemicals. It worked. It was unhealthy, but it worked.
Caffeine consumed, comfort zone resumed.
My mental flagellation and emotional self-abasement also helped to burn off some of the excess potential. I created “YOU SUCK” stories about myself so that I could return to my comfort zone. I stopped to get a soda to counter and balance the energy I had created by fictionalizing what would await me. Some days, nothing was. I would show up, no one would notice and I would cruise to my office in peace and serenity. I would Om to my shanty.
I was fictionalizing a future to justify my addiction to fake sugar and stimulants. I was creating stress and anxiety to energize me beyond what was comfortable so that I could justify a drive-thru fix.
I was creating stress so that I could justify my addiction!
Upon that realization, all of my addictions changed. I started to question the stories, stress and anxiety I was creating. Were they factual or justifications to distance myself from the discomfort I was feeling? I began to investigate my discomfort and came to understand that I had a healthy discomfort that led to adaptation and growth and a unhealthy discomfort where lived my addictions, dysfunctions and the peccadillos of my personality.
I began to try to quiet the mental masturbation, tolerate the healthy discomfort and identify and reduce the unhealthy.
It didn’t take too long before Diet Cokes were a thing of my past. My liver is still smiling.
Be Quiet -I'm TalkingAT YouBe Quiet - I'm Talking AT You (Elephant Journal - May 23, 2014)
I had a delightful conversation with a client yesterday. She was saying how difficult it is for her to remain present with someone who talks AT her.
This morning, I realized … she may have been referring to me.
A couple of years ago, I was “sharing” a story with my sweetheart. With self-satisfaction thrusting me forward, I launched into the story. It was a good story. It was funny, mildly ironic, and it had a hook.
Just as I was building a head of steam, she said something … a full sentence.
I didn’t hear exactly what she said, but it was internally interpreted as the command:
DANGER < ABORT < SYSTEM FAILURE < RESET
... I terminated the story. She saw, sensed and felt the carnage and then tried to salvage something from the wreckage by apologizing for her interruption. She said she was sorry, that she was just trying to engage with me.
“If she really wanted to hear the story, she would have just listened and not interrupted,” my ego’s diagnostic array flashed before it shorted out and died a smoky, foul-smelling death.
After she apologized and my system reset, I let her know it wasn’t about her. I had stopped talking because I have issues. I was triggered and chose to sulk. I created an internal story about her interruption and elected to value her interjection as a rejection.
I took responsibility for my reaction. She still felt bad.
Over the next ten minutes, I realized why her way of engaging was vexing. I wasn’t trying to engage with HER.
I was telling the story to hear myself talk and I projected I would enjoy it more if I had an audience.
She was interrupting me talking to myself.
She was grabbing my arm as I was trying to pat myself on the back for how funny and clever I find myself.
She was coming between Me and my inflated ego.
That became a pivotal moment in my development and in our relationship. Shifting from soliloquy to dialogue has taken me a while longer. I begin to feel when my discourse is off course, and then I stop, regroup and reconnect, before I continue.
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing. — Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5)
Shakespeare was a master at soliloquy, the talking to oneself in a dramatic fashion, but I haven’t ever read anything that says how proficient he was at the empathetic communion necessary for interpersonal communications.
I realized I needed to be in a neutral space to commune with others. If I was projecting, it was a soliloquy, a rapturous monologue where I didn’t care whether anyone was listening, interested or offended. I lacked empathy. I was selfish and domineering.
It was also a way I kept a comfortable buffer between my audience and me. I used monologue to maintain a preset emotional distance from others. I used a handful of words to keep intimacy at arms length.
Empathetic Communion: Compassionate communication without the need for dominance or distance. The fearless exchange of information with the intention to create a shared experience.
Engaging in conversation requires that I maintain the practice of empathetic communion.
It is a practice that I intend … to continue to practice.
The Road to Intimacy (Elephant Journal - May 24, 2014)
The Road toIntimacy“Even in the common affairs of life, in love, friendship, and marriage, how little security have we when we trust our happiness in the hands of others!” William Hazlitt (1821)
I suffered in a previous relationship. From the start, the woman I was dating was clear and concise in her position and objectives but I had a desire, a fervent demand, that her position parallel mine. I pushed, pulled, seduced, implored, manipulated, cajoled, whined and debated.
I made a valiant effort to persuade her to become someone she didn’t want to be. It was exhausting … for both of us.
Luckily, she was strong enough to resist my oppressive, overbearing tyranny. I had become so driven and exhausted by my desires, expectations and demands that I would exhibit all of the signs of shock whenever I pulled into her driveway … My suffering was a result of the reality not meeting my demand. I created all of my suffering … every dramatic, soul-sucking bit of it.
That relationship felt intimate because I was so invested in it. The emotional turmoil I created gave me a false sense of intimacy. I was energized by the drama I fabricated. I confused that swirling pool of emotion with intimacy.
I spent so much energy on the distractions of my demands and expectations that there wasn’t much of me left over to be present or intimate.
My demands and expectations were born from fear; yet, intimacy comes from a place of strength.
Here’s the idea: To be intimate, first, I need to be present. To be present, I must reduce my distractions. Distractions indicate that I am giving something that is “out of the moment” energy (like my demands and expectations). Demands and expectations all deal with making some future moment “safer.” If I am focusing on the future, I am not in the present. If I am spending energy on distractions, I have less energy available. To the degree that I am not present, I am weakened.
After that relationship’s smoldering death, I began to challenge the veracity of my fears, reduce my expectations and release my demands.
I am more “Me” when I let things “Be.”
In my subsequent relationship, I got better at letting things be. I began to notice when a demand would arise. There was a feeling to it and I began to associate that feeling with the expectation. Instead of trying to coerce, seduce or manipulate my partner into a different action, I began to question what fear was behind my demand. As an added benefit, when I was investigating my demand, I was no longer trying to control or manipulate.
What my investigations uncovered was that my demands and expectations were all born from some fear that I was holding on to. When I began questioning the roots of those fears, I discovered they were all projections about some “fictional future.” My fear wasn’t about what was happening right now, they were all about what might happen next.
I was creating the fear, which created the demand, which distracted me from the present.
When I examined why I might not want to be present I found the fear of intimacy or more specifically, successful intimacy. If I was fearlessly present, there would be nothing holding me back from being as intimate as possible.
I was manufacturing fear as a way to guarantee failure or at least moderate my intimacy.
As I dismantled my fears, they dissipated. As they dissipated, I was able to be more intimate to a greater degree for a longer period of time.
I have come to realize I am in complete control of how intimate I am. It has nothing to do with anyone else. There is no one to blame. If I can be myself and allow others to be themselves then there will be intimacy.
I now understand that intimacy is a result of supreme self-confidence and universal tolerance.