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Quit The Cult Of Busy

Photo by Gemma Evans on Unsplash

Photo by Gemma Evans on Unsplash

We’ve been told since birth (or at least since grade school) that your worth in the world is based on your ability to produce. I don’t believe that, and I bet you don’t really either, yet we’re in the habit of acting like it’s true anyway. For the next three weeks I’m writing about common mistakes most of us are making that keep us locked into the lie that we can’t do the things that matter most, and what to do instead so you can Get Shit Done.

 

The Cult of Busy? Yeah, you’re probably a member.

 

Someone asks how you’re doing and the refrain is always, “Busy! Good, but so busy!”  

We’re addicted to our busyness, and it keeps us from doing the things we really want to do. We take on projects and responsibilities that are “good enough” and it interferes with our ability to do the things that are most meaningful.

This summer I had three interesting yoga-related opportunities come my way. A friend from high school asked me to teach a monthly yoga class at the bar she owns. Another friend asked if I wanted to teach 420 yoga (where both students and teacher get high before class--yes, this is a real thing.) A fellow yoga teacher connected me with a therapist who leads yoga+trauma therapy groups.

These first two were easy to say no to: I rarely drink and I don’t smoke, so neither is really a fit for my vibe as a yoga teacher or a person. The trauma therapy group, however, was harder to parse.

On paper, this collaboration was totally in my wheelhouse: I teach trauma-sensitive yoga, I’m a trauma survivor myself, I love talk therapy, etc. But for some reason, the emails from the (very nice) therapist sat unanswered in my inbox. Finally I remembered this little piece of meme-gleaned wisdom:

If it isn’t a “Hell yes!” it’s probably a “No”.

I replied to the therapist and said politely that it’s just not a good time for me right now, and I connected her to another yoga teacher who’d expressed interest.

It’s not easy to say No. We’re trained to be compliant and obedient, particularly those of us socialized as girls/women. But as writer Cheryl Strayed says, “No is the power the good witch wields.”

No helps us to stop overfilling our days.

No gives us the ability to clear away our temporal clutter.

No gives us our power back.

Here’s a little mantra to work with as you practice saying No this week:

I’m divesting from the cult of busy. I do not subscribe to the hustle. My value as a human is not connected to my productivity. I say No to the “good enough” to make space for my best.

Much love, 

Bear

P.S. Want to learn to overcome these obstacles? 

Get Shit Done is a six week course that teaches productivity skills for weirdos. This is not another listicle of productivity hacks or a corporate efficiency bootcamp. This is real-life strategy for how to get clear, take action and Get Shit Done. 

CLICK HERE to learn more! 

Registration closes September 15. Space is limited! 

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Why You Don't Get Shit Done

Photo by Hans M on Unsplash

Photo by Hans M on Unsplash

Psssst! Wanna learn how to be productive without selling your soul? Let's Get Shit Done

What keeps you from doing your soul’s work?

Contrary to what our culture would have us think, we are not here to be cogs in the machine. I believe each of us has a purpose. I believe YOU have a purpose beyond just making enough money to get by. Your worth is not your work.

We are here to do the work that lights us up, that brings us joy and contentment, that makes us feel purposeful and fulfilled. For some of us it’s making art or music or some other creative pursuit. For others it’s helping people, easing the pain of others in some capacity. Maybe it’s raising children or growing a garden or hiking in the mountains.

You are here for a reason.

Despite this fact, many of us end up mostly doing other things that are NOT that reason. What is the obstacle that has you filling your days with other, lesser things? In my coaching work (and just in my life experience) I see three main reasons WHY.

1. Capitalism

Capitalism, in this case, is really just shorthand for any monetary system that requires that we devote most of our waking hours to meaningless tasks. Some of us have hit the jackpot and found work that pays enough and is also deeply fulfilling. Many of us work for money and hope to have enough free time to do the real work. Most of us, I’d venture to guess, struggle to get by financially and STILL struggle to find the time or energy to do the meaningful stuff.

2. Terror

Once you find the time and energy to get to work on your soul work, it’s often not as easy as you’d think to get started. In fact, it can be downright terrifying. Facing the blank canvas, the blinking cursor, the newborn baby is many people’s nightmare.

You can rely on this fear as a signal that, counterintuitively, you are on the right track. Steven Pressfield, author of The War of Art, describes it thusly:

“Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”

This terror comes up because in order to do your soul’s work, your ego has to die a little, and it does not go quietly into the night. It kicks and screams and often prevents you from ever getting started.

3.Self-sabotage

If you’ve managed to get through the terror and actually put pen to paper or paint on canvas, you’ll likely feel the immediate and undeniable urge to organize your sock drawer by color and type approximately five minutes into getting to work.

I know this because I have done this and I have the sock drawer to prove it. Despite our best intentions, we self-sabotage our way out of actually doing the things we want to do. And before you know it, it’s Monday morning and time to go back to that meaningless but necessary job.

Learning to become “productive” enough to overcome these barriers might seem like selling out, but I actually think that productivity, when aimed at doing your soul work, can be deeply radical. If we get stuck in cycles of exhaustion, fear or self-sabotage, our soul work never gets done. We are worse for it and THE WORLD is worse for it.

Do these ring true for you?

Which of these three obstacles shows up most for you?

Much love, 

Bear

Want to learn to overcome these obstacles? 

Get Shit Done is a six week course that teaches productivity skills for weirdos. This is not another listicle of productivity hacks or a corporate efficiency bootcamp. This is real-life strategy for how to get clear, take action and Get Shit Done. 

CLICK HERE to learn more! 

Registration closes September 15. Space is limited! 

 

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Get Shit Done

Hello dear one,

Let’s talk about how to Get Shit Done.

If you’re like most people (myself included), you’ve got a to-do list the length of your arm. It's mostly made up of mundane tasks you’d rather not deal with but must be done to keep the cold-brew pouring and the Netflix streaming.

But somewhere tucked in there, among the metaphorical fax-sending and dry-cleaning, there might also be....a secret dream. Something that you’ve thought enough about to write down on your to-do list, but not enough to cross it off.

You know what I’m talking about.

The art project you work on in your “spare time”. That collaboration you’ve conversed about over drinks. The back-burner book you write in the shower one paragraph at a time. The meditation practice you’re going to start (tomorrow). The epic trip you fantasize about when you’re procrastinating doing the more banal shit on your to-do list.

When you were younger, you accomplished this secret dream just by winging it. Incredibly, with no money, no time, and no clue, you made your own dream come true.

Sawdust and spit, duct tape and hot glue, piss and vinegar: you made magic.

The bad news:

Flying by the seat of your pants just doesn't cut it anymore. Your vision for yourself and your world has outpaced your skills, and you're stuck. Your secret dream just gets copied from one to-do list to the next, never getting crossed off.

You've outgrown "winging it" as a life strategy. Welcome to adulthood!

The good news:

Every single artist, activist, healer, maker, creative, entrepreneur and general weirdo I know has this same angst. You make time for the stuff that’s necessary (because capitalism) but struggle to make time for the stuff that’s "unnecessary" on paper but utterly important for your soul and your sanity. 

You’re not alone. And it doesn’t have to be this way.

Get Shit Done is an unconventional productivity course that teaches you tangible, practical skills for getting your shit together and moving forward, finally, on the work that means the most to you. 

This is not a listicle of productivity hacks or a neoliberal  efficiency bootcamp. There's no condescension or corporate jargon here. This is a real-life strategy for the blessed freaks and holy weirdos on how to get clear, take action and Get Shit Done.

We meet for six weeks (in person in New Orleans or online from anywhere!) and build sequentially over four chapters: Vision, Strategy, Action, and  Accountability.

In Get Shit Done, you’ll get explicitly clear about what you want and clarify why you want it (Vision). Then you'll break it down into manageable steps and plan how to execute them (Strategy). You’ll overcome overwhelm and banish procrastination (Action), and learn to stop your worst self-sabotaging habits (Accountability).

At the end of six weeks, you’ll leave with a concrete plan for how to move forward and a clear, replicable strategy you can apply to all your secret dreamsin the future. 

You’ll get real skills, loving accountability, and a fierce community so you can finally get out of your own way.

THE DETAILS

Get Shit Done meets weekly on Sundays from 1-3:30pm Central Time. The course runs September 17-October 22. 

We meet in person in New Orleans or via live webstream from anywhere in the world. Have to miss a class? Watch the replay on your own time.

It costs $300. As always, payment plans are wildly available, and a few sliding scale spots are open for folks with intersecting marginalized identities. Inquire for details!

SIGN ME UP!

I believe you are better (and the world is better) when you're showing up fully, bringing your best and highest visions into reality. You need (we all need) the magic of doing the work you are meant to do. You don’t deserve scraps under the table.

You deserve to live your best life ever. And I firmly believe that life is within your reach.

Let's Get Shit Done

Much love, 
Bear

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Your Feelings Are Your Tools

Photo by Matheus Ferrero on Unsplash

Every week I send out a love note filled with resources, musings, and inspiration about walking this path of yoga and liberation. Click here to subscribe!

Our emotions can be productive.

This shouldn’t be a radical statement, but we live in a culture where big feelings are to be politely eschewed, swept casually under the rug. But I believe that we can use them as tools. How can we leverage our big feelings, rather than just as terrible experiences we grit our teeth and suffer through?

Anger and sadness can feel overwhelming and stressful. Many of us, for instance, have felt intense anger over some aspect of our sociopolitical system over the past few years. We are angry over unchecked police violence against Black and brown people. We are enraged over unmitigated poisoning of the environment by corporations for profit. We are furious over flagrant discrimination against queer and trans people, women, Muslims and immigrants. Just writing this list, I am seething.

But we can channel that anger towards the sources of this injustice. We show up at protests. We call our senators. We give our money to the organizations on the ground doing the work every day. Unchecked, this raging fire can burn us out.

But without anger, we have no fuel for the fight.

Last week I pulled up to the intersection of Claiborne and Bienville and there was a pregnant woman asking for spare change at the corner. I gave her a dollar but as I pulled away, I cried from a childlike place inside that knows how wrong it is that anyone, let alone a pregnant woman, should have to go hungry or sleep on the street when so many of us live in such abundance.

For a minute I chastised myself for crying, but then I felt grateful for the way my sadness keeps me soft. Feeling sad means I’m paying attention. It signals that my empathy is turned on. Even though it sometimes makes me depressed or weepy, I wouldn’t have it the other way, cut off and cold.

If we’re constantly policing our feelings, we miss out on the wisdom they have.

 

But if we choose to let them in, we can channel our anger towards action. We can use our sadness to remain openhearted. Ask yourself: How can I use this sadness to shift my perspective? How can this anxiety connect me to others rather than isolate me? How can this anger give me clarity? Can my ambivalence help me to reorient towards things I truly love?

Our feelings can be tools, but only if we listen to them.

Much love, 

Bear

P.S. If you like what I write each week, I'd love to keep in touch. Sign up for weekly love letters direct to your inbox by CLICKING HERE. If you have the means, consider making a financial contribution to support my work

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The Myth of Painlessness

Every week I send out a love note filled with resources, musings, and inspiration about walking this path of yoga and liberation. Click here to subscribe!

Many of us tend to operate from the unconscious belief that if you were good, pure, or perfect enough, that we would never suffer. That if we just work at it hard enough, that we will eventually reach a place in which we no longer experience pain. A place in which the body is always comfortable, the mind never races, the heart never aches.

This might seem like a weird thing to believe, but I know that I hold this belief because when I do (inevitably) experience suffering, what do I do? I blame myself for it.

I tell myself that that if I’d just meditated more consistently, getting cut off in traffic would never bother me. If I’d done more asana practice that my back would never hurt. If I were a better, more evolved person I wouldn’t ever experience rejection or heartbreak. If I drank more green smoothies I wouldn’t ever get sick.

But here’s the truth:

Suffering is a part of life. Our infinite spirits are housed, for better and for worse, in finite bodies, and along with them comes degradation, decay, and eventually death. We live in intimate connection with myriad volatile beings who are prone to maiming us with all manner of accidental and intentional weapons.

Alongside all that comes pain.

Also worth noting that on this path, there is no arriving. This is a journey without end (except maybe when you die, or maybe not even then.)

I cannot be perfect enough to escape pain. None of us can. No amount of goodness alleviates all suffering. There is no get-out-of-jail-free card. (Side note: abolish all prisons.)

Your lack of goodness is not to blame when you do feel pain. Your goodness or perfection cannot prevent you from feeling pain.

This might seem sort of depressing, but for me these truths spell out freedom. If my own goodness or lack thereof is not to blame for my suffering, I am liberated from blaming myself. I can stop seeing my current experience of pain as some indicator of how “behind” I am on my spiritual path.

I can choose to lean into how doing yoga makes us more capable of experiencing all things, including pain. Being able to be present with our feelings and actually experience our pain is one of the great gifts of the yoga practice.

Much love, 

Bear

P.S. If you like what I write each week, I'd love to keep in touch. Sign up for weekly love letters direct to your inbox by CLICKING HERE. If you have the means, consider making a financial contribution to support my work

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Why We Practice

Photo by Ryan Holloway on Unsplash

Photo by Ryan Holloway on Unsplash

I practice yoga so that I can be open to the multiplicity of experiences that life offers, not to shut myself off in an internal cave of detachment and neutrality. I want to have the capacity to fully feel grief, pain and sorrow, because I know that shutting myself off from them also shuts me off from being able to fully feel love, joy and bliss.

 

We practice yoga in order to practice presence.

 

We use the breath and body as a tool to create presence. We use complex asanas to help us stay present even when we’re confused or off-balance or uncomfortable or failing. We use simple asanas to help us stay present even when we’re bored, complacent, dealing with the mundanities and repetitions of daily life.

 

We practice so that when we’re sitting in traffic, we can resist the immediate urge to reach for the phone or change the radio station. We build our capacity to simply breathe, feeling the breath in the body, to look out the window and observe the light glinting off the side of a building.

 

So that when we lose someone close to us, we don’t need to constantly have a drink or a smoke or a shopping spree or a Netflix binge or a pint of ice cream in order to numb ourselves. Instead, we can feel the heaviness of that loss. We can surrender as we let the waves of sadness wash over us. We can trust that the waves will eventually subside.

 

So that when we finally reach that long fought for goal, we don’t have to deflect the praise we’re given. We don’t need to downplay our excellence and our hard work. We are open to the joy it brings.  

 

We practice so that whatever situation we face, we have the capacity to be present. To be with the fullness of the experience. To meet it with openness and curiosity. To live.

Much love, 

Bear

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Correction or Instruction? #principlesofasana

This is the eighth and final post in a series called Principles of Asana, looking at how to skillfully apply discernment and wisdom in our poses and in our practice. Catch the previous posts here, here, here, here, here, here and here.  

Do you remember a few years ago when you could walk into any vinyasa yoga class in any studio in any city and hear the same instruction repeatedly: “Tuck your tailbone under and...”?

It was said in nearly every pose. Downward dog. Tuck your tailbone. Tadasana. Tuck your tailbone. Warrior Two. Tuck your tailbone. And so we tucked, on and on, ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

It seems that the “Tuck your tailbone” bubble has burst, but still other pernicious instructions persist, commands to soften the glutes in backbends, or to pull the shoulder blades away from the ears in well, basically every pose.

 These blanket instructions are thankfully going out of style, but how did they become so popular in the first place?

 Something that may have been a useful thing to say to one particular student, in order to adjust for their particular imbalance, became what we said to every student (sometimes in every pose!). We lost the nuance. 

We mistook a correction for an instruction.

Let’s go back to tucking the tailbone, shall we? This instruction is potentially helpful for a student with too much anterior pelvic tilt or an exaggerated lumbar curve, ie with too much sway in the lower back. Tucking the tailbone might bring this student’s pelvis to a neutral tilt and even out the curve of the spine.

 But for a student with a tucked pelvis or flat lower back, the instruction to tuck the tailbone backfires. It takes an already out of balance area and makes it worse.

 For the curvy-spined student, tucking the tailbone is an appropriate correction for their imbalance. When tucking the tailbone becomes a universally applied instruction, however, things go awry.

 So as teachers, let’s ask ourselves: is this a correction for one student or an instruction that everyone needs?

 And as students, we can ask ourselves the same question: is this instruction for me? Does what the teacher is saying help to bring my body into balance? Or does it exacerbate an existing misalignment?

We can become smarter yogis! I believe in us. 

Much love, 

Bear

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Five Essential Questions for Intelligent Asana Practice #principlesofasana

This is the seventh post in a series called Principles of Asana, looking at how to skillfully apply discernment and wisdom in our poses and in our practice. Catch the previous posts here, here, here, here, here, and here.  

Last week we talked about how bringing an attitude of curiosity to your practice can bring you an expansive, rather than contracted, energy. The first question I ask myself when I get stumped in my yoga practice is “What happens when...?,” and this can crack open a practice calcified by perfectionism. But this week I want to delve deeper than the questions of “What?” and get to the “Why?” of asana, and ultimately, of yoga.

The question I use for this “Why?” portion is “What is the intended effect of...?” For example, What is the intended effect of the pose? Or what is the intended effect of this instruction?, ie,

WHY are we doing this thing in this way?

I’ve written previously about this practice of inquiry and how it helps to dismantle dogmatic systems and thinking. Rather than getting stuck in attempting to perform the poses rigorously and by rote, copping to an external authority that tells us both what to do and how to do it, instead we can gain an internal guidance that offers us insight into what your body needs in the moment you’re engaging with it.

Further, it allows you a deeper understanding of what your instructor is teaching, so that you’re not just following along blindly, but engaging with nuance and intelligence.

So when your yoga teacher cues a particular pose, you can start to investigate both what’s happening in your body when you do the asana in the way it’s being instructed, and then also attempt to comprehend why your teacher is teaching it that way.

For instance, if I cue Triangle Pose and my intention is to prepare the body for Half Moon Pose, I might emphasize the alignment of the hips and shoulders in Triangle Pose (because it’s much harder to maintain when you’re on one leg in Half Moon) over trying to get the bottom hand closer to the floor (which would emphasize the opening of the front leg more and would be better prep for say, Bird of Paradise Pose).

So the intended effect of that particular Triangle Pose would be to align the hips and shoulders.

So you, as a student can then assess if the pose is creating the intended effect. You can ponder: is the intended effect something that’s actually useful to me? If it is useful but it’s not happening, what might you shift in your pose to bring about the intended effect? Following the Triangle Pose example, you might bring your bottom hand up the front leg more to allow the shoulders to stack over the pelvis more. What other adjustments might you make?

To recap, the five questions are:

  1. What is the actual effect of the pose I’m practicing or the way I’m practicing it?

  2. What is the intended effect of this pose (or this instruction, this sequence, etc.)?

  3. Is the intended effect happening?

  4. Is the intended effect something that is interesting or useful to me and my body?

  5. Is there a way to shift my pose to create the intended effect?

This is how we create an individual and intelligent yoga practice.

I’d love to hear from you! Do these questions make sense? What else do you ask yourself when you’re practicing? How else can we bring curiosity and inquiry into the asana practice? Let me know what you’re thinking about!

Much love,

Bear

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Perfectionism's Antivenom #principlesofasana

This is the sixth post in a series called Principles of Asana, looking at how to skillfully apply discernment and wisdom in our poses and in our practice. Catch the previous posts herehereherehere, and here.  

I used to sort of hate really flowy yoga classes.

You know the kind, where you wave your arms around you in Warrior Two and drape your torso over your legs like a noodle in Forward Fold and then gracefully dive up into Urdhva Hastasana, the kind of class where the teacher says things like, “Move in any way that feels good.”

I hated these classes because when I first started practicing yoga, I was obsessed with alignment. I wanted to know the exact right way to do the poses. Was my back foot supposed to turn in or out in Warrior 1? DId my bottom arm go inside or outside the front leg in Side Angle Pose? Should I press into the inner edges or outer edges of the feet in Wide Legged Forward Fold.

I wanted to know the precise actions in each pose so that I could make sure I was doing them right.

I inadvertently tied my worth as a student (and later, as a teacher) to my ability to know the ins and outs of every pose and to my ability to then execute the poses with precision. This perfectionism created a rigidness in my practice that I just couldn’t shake.

Some years ago in class I asked my teacher a question about the “right” position of the hands in Downward Dog. “Heide,” I said, “Should my hands go with the index fingers vertical in Down Dog or should they externally rotate a bit?”

“Ask a better question,” she replied.

I was thoroughly perplexed. I did not know a better question to ask. Helpfully she supplied one.

“What happens when you place your hands with the fingers vertically aligned? What happens when you turn them out?”

This simple reframe has dramatically shifted my approach to the practice. When I’m obsessed with alignment, I’m carrying my perfectionistic tendencies with me onto the mat. I feel the urge to perform the poses, the achieve some aspirational bodily form. Underneath that urge is a sense that I must prove myself, that how I am inherently is lacking somehow. My options and my existence become restricted to the false binary I’ve constructed of good/bad, right/wrong, perfect/imperfect. But when instead I ask “What happens when...?”, I access my curiosity.

Perfectionism is a snake bite. Curiosity is the antivenom.

Where perfectionism limits us, curiosity opens up possibilities. Where perfectionism says we’re not good enough, curiosity points to a multitude of acceptable ways of being. Where perfectionism kills our buzz, curiosity increases our capacity for joy.

Much love,

Bear

Every week I send out a love note filled with resources, musings, and inspiration about walking this path of yoga and liberation. Click here to subscribe!

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Find The Foundation #principlesofasana

This is the fifth post in a series called Principles of Asana, looking at how to skillfully apply discernment and wisdom in our poses and in our practice. Catch the previous posts herehere, here, and here.  

One of the first things I learned in my first yoga teacher training was to always give instructions from the ground up. As in, instruct what’s happening in the student’s feet before you start instructing their arms. You have to first find your foundation, and then work from there.

If one of your shoulders was collapsing in Downward Dog, for instance, and causing you pain, the first thing to look at is what’s happening with your hands. Are they placed symmetrically? Are you pressing down evenly through all the fingers? Often a small adjustment in an adjacent part can relieve pain somewhere else!

If we’re not steady from the base, it gets much trickier all the way up, and this is true with habitual posture, too. Someone who has collapsed arches (flat feet) might start to feel pain in their knees or lower back. Or if your right leg is more externally rotated, it has an effect. The ribcage torques, the left shoulder might pull forward to compensate, etc.

If you came to me for help with the pain in your knee or your ribcage, and I just looked at the place where the pain manifests and gave you exercises for that body part, how effective do you think that would be?

If your answer is “not very effective,” I’d have to agree with you. When I work with a student one-on-one, I always start with an in-depth assessment their body from the ground up, looking at all the joints in relationship to each other. I find the foundation and we work from there.

And because all that we do on the mat is metaphor for what happens off the mat and out in the world, if our core beliefs about ourselves and the world are flawed or broken, how can we expect to stand up straight? I mean this Literally and figuratively! Our bodies compensate for what we believe, and so too do our minds.

For example, if you believe you don’t deserve love, it has an effect. You might avoid intimacy. You might pick partners who corroborate your beliefs. So start from the base. Give yourself a solid foundation. Work from there.

Much love, 

Bear

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