"We see things as we are, not as they are." That phrase at first seems confusing, but read over a few times the message comes clearly into focus. While I'll admit that it sounds very "yoga speak," if we really think about it, it's not altogether a new concept. We're all familiar with the Rorschach test - a test that analyzes a subject's perception of ink blots to determine various aspects of their personality.
While it's safe to say our experiences can influence our perceptions - i.e. a person raised on a farm may see a cow where someone from the city may interpret that same shape as a cloud - it's also true that our perspective can be changed through suggestion. For instance, if I tell you to look for "animal shapes" while looking at the ink blots, then you may likely come to the conclusion that what you see is a cow as well, despite not having any personal connection to farm animals.
This ability to consciously shape a thought or conjure a feeling is not uncommon. Most people would agree that music can influence your mood, whether you want to have a good cry and turn to Adele, or you want to make doing the laundry more fun so you put on your favorite Pandora station. The same can be done with your thoughts. If you are already feeling down, it's hard not to go down the path of thinking how bad things can be. I personally can make a self pity list that would have even the most optimistic person agreeing with me how terrible my life is.
But if you use this power for good instead of evil, a lot can come from it. It has to be a conscious effort, but even after my Pity, Party of One I can turn around and make a list of how great I have it, especially when I consider how lucky I am to have won the geographic lottery to be born in a place where not only do I have access to clean water and basic necessities, but I can pretty much do or be anything I want- even if that means teaching yoga for a living. (Who would have thought!?)
Quick story: I was driving recently and it was sort of gloomy outside, I was feeling a little melancholy and had what's been called a "case of the Mondays" where instead of thinking about how nice it is to even have a car and be able to go anywhere I want or need to go, I was annoyed that my car has some sort of issue that needs to be seen to and I forgot my umbrella and what if it rains and I can't find a good place to park. My list of errands were less than glamorous anyway and I wanted to just curl up and take a nap and try again another day.
Suddenly, right in the middle of my first world angst fest, Ice Cube came on the radio proclaiming "It Was A Good Day" and instantly, without having a chance to second guess myself I began to bob my head in agreement. Today Actually Is a Good Day.
If you think about it, any day that you wake up feeling healthy and strong and have the freedom to determine for yourself how to spend your time, is by definition a good day. Immediately I felt happy and alert, and ready to tackle my to do list. But what changed? In that moment, the circumstances were the same, only my outlook was different.
You may have heard of the concept of "speaking something into existence." For instance, while driving through a crowded parking lot saying aloud "I just know my perfect spot is waiting for me" and then magically one appears. Or walking into a meeting saying, "I am going to knock their socks off!" and then giving a really great presentation.
A lot of people subscribe to the theory that if you accept something as true you can influence its manifestation. While it's not likely that you can say "I'm going to find a pile of money!" and a pot of gold will magically appear, it is very likely that if you focus your thoughts around being successful you will create success. Another popular "yoga speak" phrase is "what you seek is what you see." Sounds silly, until you remember that Rorschach test...
Cut back to me in my car listening to Ice Cube. Besides just being a fun song with a catchy beat, It Was a Good Day made me think wow you know what, it's too early to call this a bad day - let's turn this ship around. I began mentally listing things I was thankful for - and as the list got longer I felt more positive. In turn, my day got better. While I could have had the same result without an old school rap song, hearing it certainly helped to kick start my attitude adjustment. Armed with this realization, I will try and remember next time I'm feeling frustrated or down that I have the absolute power to control my thoughts and those thoughts can shape my reality. Why spend time in negative thinking when it's so much more productive (and healthy!) to focus on the positive!
So when life has you down, stop letting the cycle of negative thoughts take over, and in the words of a recent meme, drink some coffee, put on some gangster rap and handle it. Namaste!
Sometimes inspiration comes from the unlikeliest of places. Like, a "some assembly required" piece of furniture. I recently quit my corporate job to take my side gig full time. While doing a business "on the side" comes with fun perks - a project, extra income, something fun to talk about at parties, launching yourself fully into entrepreneurship takes it to a whole new level. Starting with the paralyzing realization of "I'm starting a company? From scratch? How the hell am I
qualified to do that?"
Some thoughts came to me this week as I was procrastinating the actual work I needed to do for my business by building a "some assembly required" bookshelf. It seemed like a great way to be productive without actually doing what I needed to do (a whole other blog post!). I started with what seemed like 987 pieces and very unclear instructions. I had great intentions for this "procrastination project" but immediately upon opening the box my heart sank. As I unwrapped each additional piece, I thought, "Maybe I'll just leave this for the boyfriend to tackle." Kind of echoes the thoughts that come up occasionally of "maybe I should just work for a company that someone else already figured out."
For some reason - probably to keep me from doing the administrative tasks I really do not enjoy doing - I pushed on. I thought, "Eh, I will just get it started and he can finish it."
But as I progressed, I started to see the final picture come together and was inspired to persevere and see the project through to the end. As is typical for a yogi, I began to see some things I already knew in my heart crystallize in front of my eyes as I realized the bookshelf project was a reflection of my fears around my business. Here are some of the nuggets I took away from the experience:
1. Don't quit before you start! I took one look at what seemed an insurmountable task and almost gave up without trying. How many people have great ideas, but lack the confidence to execute - imagine all the awesome things we have in this world, what if the person who originally came up with the idea was too scared to try? The toaster, for instance! Or wifi! (#necessities) So many times I hear people say "Why didn't I think of that?" when some simple (yet clever) invention like the selfie stick takes the internet by storm. But even worse are the ones who DID think of that, and never did anything about it.
2. Always look for another perspective. Part of why I was intimidated by this piece was the layout. I didn't understand how the parts would line up until I saw the holes from underneath and it all made sense. Had I just looked at the shelving from the top down, I would never have seen how easy it was to get all the parts in the right place. The same applies in business - I have recently gotten some really great insight from people that have a different perspective of my business than me. Do whatever it takes to see clearly and objectively, even if that means using someone else's eyes.
3. Instructions are helpful, but not always end all, be all. Throughout life, you'll receive instructions or guidance, but ultimately you must trust yourself to be able to problem solve. That's not to say "my way is better" in every case - obviously someone's tried and failed before you and it helps to have knowledge from trailblazers past. But if your intuition differs from the guidebook, follow it! When I first started out I was googling "how to write a business plan" instead of actually doing the business. The instructions on how to plan for a business were helpful, sure - but it wasn't until I was knee deep in the business that I knew what all to incorporate into the "plan" I was busy writing.
4. Tackle SOMETHING. When I decided to make a move, and assemble one part, that success gave me the will to keep at it. If you think "starting a business" is too scary, start with "write down some ideas about a problem you'd like to solve" - sometimes taking the smallest step in the right direction will propel you to tackle the whole bookcase before you know it! I had NO idea in June of 2014 when I taught a yoga class in my office that I would be launching a business doing just that 18 mos later. Starting with the basics - just teaching a class here and there and having conversations about corporate wellness- began a snowball effect that kept me going until I realized I was really passionate about this opportunity and gave me the will to see it through to the next chapter.
5. Congratulate yourself. If you think for one second I didn't do a touchdown dance when that last bolt was secured, you don't know me at all! Every accomplishment, no matter how small, should be celebrated. Positivity breeds positivity, and by giving yourself credit for taking the initiative and succeeding, you're only giving yourself confidence to tackle the next goal. Every time I book a new client, I give myself a mental high five. It's always nice to have validation even if the successes are small at first. With enough new clients (and mental high fives!) I will look back at the business I built with the same sense of accomplishment as the bookcase I put together! Neither were something I really thought I could do (and both of them came from a place of not wanting to do something else!).
All said and done, everyone can relate to a moment of taking on a DIY project and thinking halfway through that it was a mistake (or is that just me??) - but more often than not the sense of accomplishment that comes upon the project's completion truly makes the sweat and tears worth it. You are capable of more than you think. In business and in life, never underestimate the "Y" in DIY.
Since starting my business 9 months ago I've had lots of conversations about Office Yoga. Most of them are quite positive, with corporate wellness being top of mind in recent years. Some of them are very inquisitive conversations, mainly around the logistics, i.e. "do we have to wear stretchy pants and put our legs behind our head, in front of our coworkers?" (Answer: not necessarily and absolutely not) and "but where will we do yoga, we don't have a gym!" (Answer: you can do yoga right where you sit!).
Very few conversations are actually negative, but what's interesting is the companies who have completely shut down the idea are very likely the ones that could benefit the most. Think about it, companies who are already open minded enough to host a yoga class during office hours are probably already doing things to create an engaging culture. If an organization is too (rigid? narrow minded? busy? fill in the blank...) to even consider something like this, then their people are probably suffering in some way and could really benefit from a leadership sanctioned break, whether it be an hour of yoga or an ice cream social. (Hey, that gives me an idea for a partnership...)
Yes, yoga in the office can at first seem like a strange undertaking. But when you break it down, I can't imagine why you wouldn't want to bring yoga into the office. Few would argue with the benefits of a physical yoga practice as exercise, but more important is what yoga can do for an individual's mental and spiritual health as well. I don't mean sitting on an embroidered pillow chanting "OM" while aligning the chakras (not that there's anything wrong with that) but more simply just the way that practicing yoga has a tendency to create calm, to inspire confidence, cultivate mental fortitude as well as compassion for the outside world. Who among us wouldn't do our job better and be a more pleasant person in general with this type of influence in our corporate culture? Don't take my word for it, there are plenty of studies showing that happier employees do more work, and unhappy employees not only miss work more often, but are less productive (and can have a toxic effect on those around them).
While yoga is not a magic pill, it definitely has a way of turning corporate frowns upside down. Time and time again I enter an office only to be greeted with grimaces, mostly on the anxious faces of those whom have never tried yoga before and are only present to escape their cubicle for a specified amount of time while still thinking they'd rather do another spreadsheet than attempt a downward facing dog.
More often than not, those same faces, tense with anticipation at minute 1 are calm, relaxed (and dare I say even smiling?) at minute 25. I like to think they take this renewed physical and mental freedom with them into the rest of their day, causing a small ripple effect on the people they interact with - including their coworkers, clients, superiors and subordinates. If you could give a dose of that (completely natural, non pharmaceutical but still likely very addictive) medicine to even 10% of your employees, why wouldn't you?
Instead of catering in yet another (likely unhealthy) office meal, schedule an on site office yoga session for your team. It costs about the same, and the benefits will last longer than that congealed queso in the back of the office fridge.
For more information or to schedule an on site office yoga class, email firstname.lastname@example.org today!