Art in Action is a weekly post: a simple, practical guide to applying the ideas and principles in the Focus Pocus posts to your body and life. As always, I love to hear from you about how you use them and how you translate the ideas into action.
Four years ago, I was hatin’ on my work as a Nia instructor and program director. Teaching felt like an uninspiring grind. Administrative work gobbled my time and ate at my spirit. But what could I do? I was good at my work and people expected me to keep doing it. It didn’t feel good but I wasn’t sure how to get out of it.
This was a feeling I’d had before: in my first marriage, in a whole string of office jobs, even in my relationship with myself and my body. The red flag in these situations was thinking (or saying), I have to or I can’t.
We always have far more choices than we realize. It takes practice to notice when we’re doing things that are out of alignment with who we are (or want to be) and then to recognize that it’s possible to go another way.
5 Ways to Practice Choosing to be yourSELF:
1. “Small” Things
Next time someone asks you what you want for lunch or what movie you’d like to see, make a choice. Make “I don’t care” or “It’s all good with me” or “You pick” phrases that you don’t use. Practice choosing even “small” things to pave the way for choosing the bigger stuff.
A couple of years ago, I had a bout of plantar fasciitis in both my feet. I experimented with lots of stretches and exercises but also started paying attention. I noticed that when I sat at my desk or at the dinner table, I almost always lifted my heels off the floor. Tightening in my lower legs was aggravating the condition in my feet. It was a chance to choose to sit differently.
In yoga class, I sometimes choose to do postures that the teacher is doing or that the person next to me is doing, without really checking in to what feels right in my own body. The moment I realize I’m following from the outside in instead of choosing from the inside out, I take a breath and come back to mySELF on my mat.
It’s easy to get into a pattern of choosing what to eat out of habit or convenience or the illusion that a whole sleeve of chocolate chip cookies will make me feel better. Geneen Roth writes and teaches brilliantly about breaking the cycles of choosing mindless eating. On her Facebook page today (3/22/16) she wrote about two kinds of foods: “Hummers” and “Beckoners.” (If you’re on Facebook, you can read her short post here. ) Hummers are foods that you know you want without seeing them. You can imagine their textures and fragrance and colors without any external prompting. Beckoners are the doughnuts you want only when you smell them at the bakery. Beckoners are the cheeseburger and fries you hadn’t even thought about until you saw the ad but that now are calling your name.
Ms. Roth suggests keeping track of when you choose Hummers and when you choose Beckoners to get more in touch with where your food choices are coming from. Are you choosing from the inside or being pulled from the outside?
For a while, I worked at a catalog company that sold stereos and TVs. I started to notice that lunch was my favorite part of the day. I found myself being a careless, half-hearted lackadaisy. The day I got fired was no shock: I wanted to be creating experiences to help people connect with themselves, not selling equipment that let them tune out.
Work can feel like one of those places where we have no choice. When you’re feeling stuck or that the work you are doing is out of alignment with your values and yourSELF, take some time to reimagine what’s possible. Could you approach your current work differently? Could you do something else? Could you spend less to give you more financial flexibility? What choices can you make right now that would move you into a work direction that is in more alignment with you?
Some relationships we choose, some we are born into. And in all relationships we have a choice.
Do you find yourself staying in relationship with people not out of love but because you think you have to or you think others expect you to? On the other hand, what relationships make you shine? With whom do you feel most yourself and most alive?
As with other choices, it’s always interesting to see if you are choosing from the inside out or the outside in. For example, when my step-kids were small, I noticed that I was parenting he way I’d seen other people parent, not necessarily the way that felt authentic to me.
My teacher, Carlos Rosas said, Relationships are the fastest path to personal growth. Relationships show where we are out of alignment in a hurry. When my relationships take me out of synch with mySELF, it’s time to reevaluate and look into other choices. That might mean limiting contact with someone who drains me, or it might mean changing the way I think about them (Oh, that’s them just being them!). It might also mean spending more time with someone who inspires me, who cheers me on or who gets me laughing until I snort.
Today, notice if you hear yourself saying you have to or you can’t. In every moment, we have choices. The practice is to choose that which is in alignment with yourSELF.