Resistance at Yoga Class… and Bleeding as a Result

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I’m a firm believer in getting enough exercise and the right kinds of it. Over the last year, I’ve found hot yoga to not only blast my core, arms, and legs, but it does a number on my spirit and mind as well.

Last week I was in yoga class, meditating at 5:45 AM as the room began to heat up. The instructor started us off by doing small stretches and working into bigger ones. Eventually, we moved into the down-dog position, lifting one leg, then the other. Moving our limbs into space stretching for a point somewhere in the universe.

“Yoga is the perfect opportunity to be curious about who you are.” –Jason Crandell

Being winter, I paid no mind when my nose started dripping and wiped it with my shirt which was getting sweat-stained anyway. Hot yoga ain’t about looking pretty.

My nose kept dripping and it wasn’t until I wiped it with a snow-white terry-cloth towel did I realize, “holy shit! I’m bleeding!” And it was all over the front of my shirt!

Sure, nosebleeds happen all the time to people, but it looked like I just murdered my down-dog! My ego was saying “holy crap” as I kept wiping my nose, but nothing was stopping. I went through two towels and a few wipes as deftly and quietly as I could (luckily the room is fairly dark and I was in a corner).

The bleeding eventually slowed after 5–10 minutes of attempts and I laughed a bit at the sight of myself. Definitely not pretty.

“When you listen to yourself, everything comes naturally. It comes from inside, like a kind of will to do something. Try to be sensitive. That is yoga.”–Petri Räisänen

What had happened is that due to the dry air of winter, caused by 24/7 heating in the house (thanks bomb cyclone), combined with the pressure in my nose as I was moving through the positions, the vessels in my nose broke loose and like David Bowie’s song, started screaming “let me out!”

And then it struck me. Why was I creating so much pressure in my nasal cavity? Was this normal? How can I modify what I am doing to release the pressure as much as possible?

Aha! It was because I wasn’t breathing! I was actually holding my breath, something I hadn’t noticed before. I have heard the instructors say 100 times that “this is a breathing class first, movement class second”. But I was holding back. I was doing it “my way!”

I was creating a ton of pressure when I should be letting go and releasing into my breath. I was creating a story about the fact that I knew how to breathe, so subconsciously, I was drowning out the instructions. And it had a physical effect on me: blood and lots of it.

Yoga is not about tightening your ass. It’s about getting your head out of it.” –Eric Paskel

The hour passed and as I sat at the end of my mat (facing the instructor) physically spent and sweating from every pore, I said one of those things I say to myself quite often: “Huh”.

-Where else am I holding pressure in my life and not going with the flow?

-Where else am I not listening to the experts?

-What physical/emotional/spiritual effects is this neglect having?

The nosebleed was a signal. A sign to release and be aware of what I was doing and not just go through unconsciously doing things the way I have always done them.

-Where are you holding back and creating unnecessary pressure?

-How can you release this pressure?

-Once you release the pressure, what does life look like?

Cheers.

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You want to talk about what?

body, mind, soul, spirit and you on blackboard
you, body, mind, soul, spirit

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” — attributed to Albert Einstein

When is it appropriate for psychologists/psychiatrists to talk about spirituality (if ever)? “Psyche” literally means the human soul, mind, or spirit. Therefore, psychology is the study of these things even though soul and spirit have been left out of the equation and replaced by a more favorable — and predictable — scientific method. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM for short) is hailed as the Bible for practitioners and provides reliable information on how to work with patients who fit in the categories. I’ll echo that: categories.

But it seems as if there is a chasm in this approach. There is a part of the equation that is missing. Some of the ingredients in the recipe for a whole person have been scrapped in favor of expediency.

While speaking with a fellow coach who works primarily with veterans coming back to the States. Upon return, the veterans are assisted with getting a job which, as it turns out, isn’t the primary driver of their wants and needs. He told me that what they are looking for is to belong. To find purpose and passion. “Work” is secondary to that and as a society, we place too large of an amount of weight into the notion that working is the end-all-be-all to a human’s existence.

We need a “why”.

In a recent WSJ article, Dr. David H. Rosmarin, assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, writes about his experiences at McLean Hospital, with patients who have approached him asking for him to speak with them about God. While there is no doubt the need for spiritual leaders, what is a person trained in psychological science to do when presented with this request? Ignore or disregard it? Explain it to them in scientific terms? Rid themselves of their patient’s “neurosis” and refer them to someone else?

Dr. Rosmarin didn’t think so, and he is now part of the hospital’s “Spirituality and Mental Health Program” where he serves as Director. To ensure they are following the wishes of the patients, at the beginning of a session, they respectfully ask “Do you wish to discuss spirituality with me?” If the answer is no, they move on. But if the answer is yes, they move into an enriching setting that nurtures the soul. To ensure they are providing value to the patients the program asks the patients to complete questionnaires where is very common that patients rate the discussion about spirituality as the “highlight” of their treatment.

“For many patients, their spiritual lives provide hope, meaning, purpose and a connection to the divine.”

As an executive coach, I draw distinct similarities in my field as I dive deep into the energy around the way my clients are “showing up”. That is, what my clients are either doing, or desire to do in their life, business, or careers. There is no 12-step process or guidebook that works in these scenarios because we are dealing with something much more powerful and enlightening (and game-changing!). Focusing on what motivates people, beginning with an inward to outward approach, has infinitely more opportunity to affect real changes that last a lifetime.

The problem with “I know”

maxresdefaultThere is an old story  – with many iterations – of a Zen master who was asked how to obtain enlightenment by a routinely vague character; usually someone of importance or stature.

Here’s a version:

Once, a long time ago, there was a wise Zen master. People from far and near would seek his counsel and ask for his wisdom. Many would come and ask him to teach them, enlighten them in the way of Zen. He seldom turned any away.

One day an important man, a man used to command and obedience came to visit the master. “I have come today to ask you to teach me about Zen. Open my mind to enlightenment.” The tone of the important man’s voice was one used to getting his own way.

The Zen master smiled and said that they should discuss the matter over a cup of tea. When the tea was served the master poured his visitor a cup. He poured and he poured and the tea rose to the rim and began to spill over the table and finally onto the robes of the wealthy man. Finally the visitor shouted, “Enough. You are spilling the tea all over. Can’t you see the cup is full?”

The master stopped pouring and smiled at his guest. “You are like this tea cup, so full that nothing more can be added. Come back to me when the cup is empty. Come back to me with an empty mind.”

How many times have you been telling a story or explaining a point and the other person’s response is a bland, soulless “I know”? Like: OF COURSE, you figured out quantum mechanics and my pithy interest in the topic (and my interest in sharing it with you) is common knowledge that only a fool would repeat! Well Duh!

It’s a one-way street. A closed door. A slap in the face. A punch in the gut. It makes you feel a little yucky and desperately undervalued.

  • It’s rainy out: I know.
  • You shouldn’t eat that: I know.
  • We have to be there by 8:00: I know
  • Don’t climb on that dead branch because you’ll fall out of that extremely tall tree: I know (true story and I didn’t listen to my uncle and I snapped, crackled, and popped all the way down)

Saying “I know” is a dead end: but not for the person telling the tale. For the person saying “I know”. You have effectively blocked yourself from leaning into a potentially interesting conversation, learning situation, or most important, providing space to someone who is sharing something they find valuable.

What would it be like to remain silent? Or better yet, ask questions. Get curious and find out what’s driving the desire to talk about the subject. And for the non-quantum mechanic talks (i.e. it’s rainy, watching what you eat, being on time), how about the fact that all of these things show that a person cares about you?

But you don’t need that, right? You got this. You’re a badass mother-trucker!

Deep breath.

Sometimes, I know you know. But I just want to talk. You are meaningful to me… and I want to be near you. I want to hear your voice. And, maybe I’m feeling small and I want to be heard. I stay locked inside all day and want to get out and stretch my legs.

Answers are a commodity that can easily be summoned from the interwebs and your smart relative who seems to have learned and done everything already. Went to Peru and did ayahuasca? Oh yeah, I flew first class to Peru, had sex on Machu Pichu and did ayahuasca three times (at once) while finishing my dissertation on how to be the most awesome person in the whole world!

I know.

William Shakespeare said that “A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.” When Chaerephon asked the oracle of Delphi who the smartest person to ever live was, the response was that it was Socrates due to what is now known as the “Socratic paradox”, something that Socrates intimately understood about himself. “I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing.”

“You don’t learn much when you’re talking” – Jack Nicholson

So listen up!

Because I think I know something about knowing nothing: life is much more of an adventure, more fun, more gregarious and transforming when you stop being right and start being open. Notice the difference there: the opposite of ‘right’ is not ‘wrong’.

This is all for you. The gift you give someone with the space you allow for their thoughts and dreams to manifest and bloom is such a wonderful place to play.

Be the silence that listens. Only then will you know.

“You observe a lot just by watching” – Yogi Berra

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Fill in the blank on this recent Wall Street Journal article quote:

“The human element of ___________ is always going to be important, but so is all the science and technology”.

If you filled in the blank with “baseball”, you are correct! But it could have easily been “pharmaceutical industry”, “chemical engineering”, “space exploration”… pretty much any industry. The quote comes from Houston Astros pitcher Dallas Keuchel the day after winning the World Series (sorry Dodgers fans).

In the last few years, the Astros have become deeply involved in the analytics of baseball by grinding numbers and massaging their game based on the metrics. But it eventually became too analytical of an endeavor and the human aspect was seriously threatened as players began to feel like “a number instead of a person”.

Sound familiar?

At the beginning of the current season, the Astros took a slightly different tack as the leadership let down their guard and began connecting with the players in various ways. They began forsaking the ivory tower to walk the locker room and clubhouse to get to know the team on a more intimate level.

This did not mean that the Astros took the foot off the gas surrounding their collection of data, which was proving to be quite valuable. But it signaled to the team a desire to connect and it paid off with huge dividends. Jeff Luhnow, the team’s general manager stated that now, “We’re an open book with our players. We tell them WHY as opposed to how”. If you have read any of my previous posts, you will know how strongly the “why” resonates due to the fact that this is precisely what drives good leadership and in turn, buy-in from those being led.

“Culture is a hard thing to really quantify, but when you see it you know it’s there” – Luhnow

The cultural change even began to break down racial barriers within the team (excluding Gurriel’s gesture) as players furthered themselves by learning other languages in order to better communicate with their mates. #culturehastheabilitytobreakdownbarriers

The Astros chemistry experience with culture has some obvious lessons for all industries. If the goal is big enough, in this case, the World Series, fostering the right team attitude is integral in reaching the loftiest of peaks. The alternative is mediocrity, which can be found in 2nd class dugouts across the globe.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-the-astros-hit-on-a-winning-formula-1509648139

The Developer vs. Intimidator – Leadership archetypes

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There are two leadership archetypes that tend to show up again and again in our world: the Developer and the Intimidator.

The Developer works from a place of great internal power, fortitude, and emotional intelligence. These folks lead by example and service. He or she drives innovation by managing the strengths of team members, developing deep, connected relationships, and having the intelligence to know when to get out of the way. They coach other team members all the while remaining a student themselves. They are enthusiastic and with things go right or wrong, they are there accepting the outcome shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the team.

The Intimidator, on the other hand, works from a limited vision, relying on scare tactics and authoritarian control to manage the resources bestowed upon them. These “leaders” play on the weaknesses of others by exploiting soft targets, constantly holding the fear or recourse over team member’s heads to ensure that everyone has no doubt who is in control. They are quick to pass the buck, use the word “I” a lot, and seem to be the expert in all areas. If things go badly, they point fingers, “move seats” of people, and warn others that they have no intention of taking any part of the blame. If things go well, they take the credit.

Developers use anabolic energy to build teams, creating cultures with open communication and respect. Intimidators use catabolic energy to individualize components and create clandestine cultures, shunting power to a select few. Both of these “reactions” create an outcome. The choice comes down to are you interested in building or destroying to get the job done?

Admittedly, Intimidators have a great deal of influence and can even have tremendous success (ahem Steve Jobs). But at what cost? Apple, for example, is wildly successful and has brought stockholders and founders huge fortunes. Is this why we work? For money? For a paycheck? For status?

Many leaders will tell you they build teams. But let’s be honest, they’re lying. It’s lip service. OR, they aren’t lying, they just don’t know how to go about doing it in a way that still honors their own values without getting lost in people pleasing.

My vision is that employees and team members come to work for something other than just a paycheck and benefits. Something that’s more subtle and elusive. Something that has longevity and can indeed create Legacy. And that is, that they come to work for themselves. For how they see themselves as a part of the company they work for. More than a number or a human resource.

And I have a sneaky suspicion that the intimidating leaders of the world would find more joy in their jobs if the people who came to work for them (with them) spoke well of them instead of whispering around the water cooler. People don’t leave bad jobs, they leave bad bosses.

And those developing leaders are eager to continue to build and get feedback on how well they are doing, focusing on areas to improve. An aloof developer can create a wake of despair as team members scratch for recognition.

I have had the pleasure of working with both sides of this equation, including how I have shown up myself. From this experience, I have grown and learned, and have a deeper appreciation for both sides of this dichotomous coin.

If you are interested in learning more about coaching and what it can bring to you or your organization, please get in touch with me.

Back to Front Alignment

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Driving into work this morning, I passed a semi-truck carrying a MASSIVE metal beam, similar to the one in the picture below (which I lifted from Reddit). The back wheels of the truck are not connected to the front with anything other than the beam and I imagine the engineering is fairly complex to get the rear of the vehicle to align with the front. Anything outside of a few inches of difference would cause the entire thing to wreck (which is what happened to the pictured truck: https://gfycat.com/UnsungHandmadeBustard).

It got me thinking about how, even if the front of the truck “knows” where it is going, if the back isn’t in sync, the whole thing has the ability to run off course and have catastrophic consequences. Where have we seen this before in organizations? That is, where the leader is 100% invested and completely involved, but the rest of the organization is just a few inches off of center.

It happens in our personal lives as well. I can be the most prolific leader/husband/father/friend, but if something is not in line with the “idea” of who I am… let’s say health… success is a hell of a lot harder to come by. And we are running on borrowed time.

Garrett J. White talks about 4 areas of our lives that are constantly vying for attention and if not curated, become unbalanced. He calls them the “Core Four” and they are: body, being, balance, and business. At the end of his bite-size podcasts, he asks a simple question:

“Where in your Core Four are you not _________?”

It is meant to spur a simple process of noticing. And by noticing, change is available. Without it, we remain asleep and any of those four are at risk of ending up like that truck: a heap of twisted metal on the side of the road for any passersby to gawk at, unable to reach its destination.

Kevin

#acwt

The glory of… defeat.

two wolves

The Tale of Two Wolves.

This could be the title of my life. And not just my life – ALL of our lives. It is balance, it’s nature, it’s glory, it’s fear… it’s a warning. The story is quite old and is often represented by a lighter colored wolf (let’s say white) and a darker wolf (let’s say gray).

The story goes:

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

In my past I would have immediately jumped to wanting to say that I desired to live in the realm of the white wolf. I blame it on programming. When a person is asked if they see themselves as mostly good or mostly evil, chances are that they will say they are good. It is a desirable trait and something that is rewarded in our society. It is natural to want to get along and be a part of the tribe. It guarantees your survival.

It is interesting to note that the legend does not dictate if it is the white, or black, wolf that is “good”. They are interchangeable. Both the gray and white wolves hold each other in balance and cannot be mutually exclusive. They’re what quantum physicists called entangled. What is “good” without the knowledge of “bad”? How would you describe it?

I”m not so sure that I would want to live in a world that was ONLY one way or the other. “Peace on earth”? All joy and no pain. All up and no down?

In meditation, the goal is not just to be blissed out, sending yourself to another dimension. The point, the reason to practice, is awareness and with that awareness, coming back into the world to “be” what you have learned. Spending too much time in the ether does not create balance – it creates divisiveness.

This got me thinking about the idea of enlightenment. More importantly, knowledge without wisdom. Zipping right to the top of the Zen food chain.

It is a lofty idea to want to become one with the universe and fall into a state of flow. But what is the use of that person if 1) they stay there or 2) they got there without doing the work it took to obtain this state? Can you imagine the feeling of surfing a 30 foot wave, but never getting in the water? It wouldn’t be worth it. Without the “work”, which I would argue is the gray wolf, what good is any enlightenment you gain? There are too many stories of people who have only gained their “a-ha” moment after something indescribably horrible happened. A plane crash, losing a loved one, losing a limb, war, cancer. How can this be explained in a world that preaches “THINK POSITIVE”?

The point, obviously, is that even when bad things happen you should try to see the silver lining. But we aren’t taught this. When our kids do something wrong, they do not rejoice. They have observed what adults do and show the shame in their apparent mistake. We don’t let kids take risks. We monitor everything. They wear helmets. They all get trophies. We protect they’re feelings. Have you ever thought of the damage you could do to someone by NOT allowing them the pain of learning that they’re entitled to?!

I’ve often think of this as I pass a stalled car on the interstate and then a short time later, seeing the owner carrying an empty gas can as they sweat in the summer heat, bullied by the wind of the passing cars. If I picked them up, what would I have robbed them of? Is it the up the right thing to do (white wolf) or does it only serve my ego as I see myself as a good person (gray wolf)?

Where in your life are you robbing someone of this opportunity? Where are you robbing yourself of the glory of defeat?

Here’s Jason Silva‘s take on it. Enjoy the ride!