Welcome to my Chantal Wade YOGA blog
The miracle is this: the more we share the more we have (Leonard Nimoy)
The miracle is this: the more we share the more we have (Leonard Nimoy)
The hard truth is this: To move forward, we have to first ACCEPT what is, as is, right now.
So what the heck does that mean, you ask? Sitting with our racing minds, overwhelming emotions and pain-infused bodies is one of the most challenging things we can do. If you are anything like me, then you want them gone, and you want them gone NOW. Interestingly enough, they won’t go away until we acknowledge them, accept them, and make peace with them.
John Kabat-Zinn, an expert in Mindfulness Meditation, explains that Self-Observation, Acceptance and Non-Judgment are the proponents to self-growth and development.
Wise words from a wise man, yet a difficult challenge. We often face strong resistance to moving forward. This is accompanied by deep self-blaming tendencies and shame for not being able to move on. This is the vicious cycle that keeps us stagnant.
At many junctures in my life, I have been stuck. The more I stumbled in my efforts to move forward, the more I shamed myself for my resistance. The more I shamed myself, the more trapped I became.
So what would happen if the next time you were really overwhelmed with emotion, you ACCEPTED yourself for your emotions? What would happen if you did not blame yourself when you were resistant to “letting go” and “moving on”? What would happen if you were to treat yourself with the same compassion you would your best friend – assuring yourself that it is ok to be overwhelmed, to be resistant, to be stuck.
My psychotherapy clients often ask me, “Yeah great, Chantal…but HOW??!!”
They want the magic bullet. I want the magic bullet. I don’t have it.
My response is both simple and complicated: “Get Curious”.
Over the years, I realized that I was really good at “talking the talk” but had to learn to “walk the walk”. As a social worker, I’d always been really interested in human behavior and experience. I was really interested in “Others”. Now, I had to get curious about my Self.
So the work is this: Get curious about your Self. Note. Observe. Connect.
The more Curious we get, the less room there is for Self-Judgment. The less Self-Judgment, the more Acceptance. The more Acceptance, the closer we are to moving forward. It is a process.
I am on my journey- A challenging one, but truly insightful.
It’s Valentine’s Day. To many of us this is a day that makes us feel excited to get flowers, chocolates and cards. For many of us, this is a day that makes us feel inadequate because we do not have a partner and are longing for love.
So today I ask, what IS love?
Often we have idealized visions of love. We have dreams of everlasting romance, happiness and laughter. However, these beautiful idealizations are often not realistic or useful. Love consists of romance, happiness and laughter, but also embraces frustration, sadness and anger. What is important to remember is that love can be difficult…and it is through the struggle that we grow.
Let me give an example. My life partner and I have a great relationship. We love one another, we support each other but, most importantly, we make each other work on ourselves. I can always trust that he will put a mirror to my face to show me my reflection in order to help me to see my reality more clearly. At times, this is very difficult. But, in my mind, this is unconditional love. Through the frustration, sadness and anger, I grow, and I am supported by him in my growth.
This growth is not limited to intimate relationships. Love exists through family, friendships and community. When love proves to be challenging, we often forget that it is still love. We welcome the good and often have difficulty embracing the difficult times. I think that once we recognize and accept that love is not always coated with chocolate chips, sparkles and cherries, we will be able to truly appreciate all that love has to offer: life lessons, truth, growth, wisdom.
So the next time that love proves to be challenging, I welcome you to see what you can learn from it. What can love teach you about yourself, about your journey, about your potential for growth?
I still have a lot to learn about love. But, for now, I will love with all my heart, and welcome all the opportunities for growth that my relationships and community involvement has to offer me.
So in whatever capacity that you have found love in your life, I wish you all a happy Valentine’s Day full of all the growth that this love has to offer.
How many times do you encounter a person or have an experience that challenges you to your core? That takes you right into the depths of your past? Where you are faced with feeling misunderstood, ashamed, saddened and/or angered?
We are faced with our pasts every day. Perhaps we have a history of anxiety, depression, anger, unhealthy relationship patterns, eating disordered behaviors, self-harming behaviors, alcoholism…The list goes on and on… Often, we have encounters or experiences that resurface the emotions that were so common to us. Sound familiar?
The truth is that we all have pasts… But we also have presents and futures. We have the potential for inspiration, growth and wisdom.
I went for tea the other day with two great friends and we ended up having the “who I used to be” conversation. It was heartfelt, filled with laughter and emotional moments. As soon as we open up to others about our pasts, we tend to recognize that we ALL have issues that we have had to contend with and that we continue to deal with in our own time.
What I realized more clearly is that we all have our Essence- our innate pure self- but this is often polluted by the daily struggles we face. Our personalities and behaviors have adapted in order to help us to cope, despite how unhealthy these adjustments might be for us long term. Consequently, we lose sight of who we truly are and we move mechanically through life in survival mode.
So many amazing teachers in my life have taught me that it is ok to have had a difficult past, to suffer and to have regrets. The growth for us lies in how we choose to move forward. Learning to find more grounding, to cut the cords, to be true to who we are…
There will always be people in our lives who do not acknowledge our growth, who do not see us for who we truly are, and who challenge our self-perception. It is up to us – and only us – to recognize our personal development, to cultivate our Essence, and to have TRUST in the process. Through growing our Essence, we can eventually find self-comfort and confidence, untouched by external factors.
I ask, “How are you?” You respond, “I’m great! How are you?” I then reply “I am great!” The truth is you feel nauseated today and I am worried about my finances. You can tell that I am out of it, and I am sensing a glaze over your eyes. But it remains unspoken.
So I ask myself. What is missing from this conversation? So many of us go through life with a shield surrounding us, like a veil we create to protect ourselves from the world around us. After all, isn’t it so much better to simply respond, “I’m great!” then to be honest and say, “I’ve had a rough day”?
In so many environments, showing vulnerability is not feasible, acceptable or deemed appropriate. When your boss asks you how you are doing, you will most likely respond, “Great”. The truth is that your boss might be stressing you out and expecting you to meet unattainable deadlines. But it is not the time or the place to share that. Understandable.
But why, then, do so many of us take this “veil” into ALL of our interactions with others? Never knowing when it is appropriate to be vulnerable, and to ask for love and support? We often find ourselves trying to rely solely on ourselves for emotional support, pretending that we are emotionally self-sufficient. Consequently, this “veil” creates a disconnect between ourselves and others…
Do we spend so much time embodying the person who is “doing great” that we often deny ourselves the ability to experience – and validate – our true emotions?
There is a difference between outpouring all of your moment-by-moment thoughts and emotions, and being emotionally vulnerable with those you trust. I am learning that it is about trusting others, trusting in ourselves, and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable when we need to be. It is an acknowledgment that “no man is an island” and that we are not burdening others by asking for connection and support.
How much do you hold on to self-anger, shame and guilt? Many of us are walking around with a lot of extra emotional weight. As one of my clients put it, “[she has] a whole lotta baggage.” I have always been so fascinated by human emotions: how we carry them, how they affect our interactions with ourselves and others.
Many times in my life, I have experienced this self-anger, shame and guilt…for having said the wrong thing, for having done the wrong thing, for having unintentionally hurt someone. For many of us, guilt is our “go to” emotion. It is the most natural of our emotions, the one that surfaces the easiest, the one we experience the most readily. We step on someone’s toe, and we feel a pang of guilt. We unintentionally hurt someone we care about, and have difficulty forgiving ourselves. We say the wrong thing, and spend hours over-analyzing the process and living in regret. I think we all experience this at different times in our lives. It is inevitable that we will offend and hurt people, despite our best of intentions.
My interest here is in how we carry the self-anger, blame, shame with us… keeping us trapped from moving beyond our past experiences. This affects how we feel about ourselves, about others, and about the world around us. It creates a deep sense of loneliness, as we might feel misunderstood, we might feel like we don’t have anything good to offer to others, we might feel insecure in our relationships.
Inevitably, so much pre-occupation is spent over-analyzing the situations and judging ourselves that we have no opportunity to move forward, to learn from our experiences and to grow.
The importance is in learning from our experiences, instead of holding them as benchmarks by which to measure our self-worth. I have learned from several of my teachers that we are allowed to make thousands of mistakes a day. This is the key phrase that many of my psychotherapy clients might remember me for. Essentially there are no mistakes when we learn from them, when we take responsibility for our actions, and put effort into being present with ourselves and others.
So I challenge you to challenge yourself. I encourage you to take a look at your guilt and ask yourself how it serves you, how it nourishes you, how it fulfills you. Somewhere in our core beliefs, there is often the false assumption that we need or deserve to continuously experience these emotions, for whatever reason that might be. So I challenge you to ask yourself – instead of over-analyzing your “mistakes” – how you can learn from your experiences and move forward.
Steve Maraboli, who wrote Life, the Truth and Being Free, puts it well: “The truth is, unless you let go, unless you forgive yourself, unless you forgive the situation, unless you realize that the situation is over, you cannot move forward.”
I am a yoga teacher. I am a psychotherapist. But, most importantly, I am a human being just like everyone else. I have doubts, I have fears, I have thoughts that do not serve me.
We place so many limitations on ourselves, enclosing ourselves in a little box, defining our capabilities without any validity. Of course, there ARE certain limitations to what we can do; but mostly we restrict ourselves as a result of our overpowering thoughts and beliefs.
The thought “I can’t do it” is like a leaf on a tree. It is resilient and sturdy; however it only exists as a result of the deeper roots of the tree. In Cognitive- Behavioural Therapy, we call these “roots” Core Beliefs. For most people, their core beliefs (i.e. I am a failure, I am unlovable, I am worthless) produce all of the superficial thoughts, the “leaves on the tree”, such as “I can’t do it”.
Fear, shame and self-doubt are most often at the root of Core Beliefs. We develop these Core Beliefs very early in life, and they shape how we think, feel and behave. Where did we learn to doubt ourselves so much, to live in shame of who we are and of our capabilities, and to fear failure? There can be many reasons, and it is helpful to understand them, but placing blame is not necessary or fruitful. Essentially, once we can recognize that there is no need to doubt ourselves, that there is no reason to feel shame and that there is no such thing as failure if you TRY, then we can start to knock down the walls that keep us enclosed.
For most of my life, I had this really annoying background music playing in my head, like that country song you just can’t stand…with the lyrics “you are not capable, you can’t do it, you will fail, la-la-la”. With support from many people in my life, and solid work on myself, I am beginning to see the light, and to put that annoying song on mute. I can still hear it once in a while, but it is amazing what you CAN do when you THINK and BELIEVE you can.
So what would life look like if you were to give yourself positive affirmations? If you were to think “I CAN do it” as opposed to “I can’t”. The truth is that thoughts are JUST thoughts, and are most often unhelpful and inaccurate. Create YOUR thoughts. And LIVE. And GROW. And BE YOU.
My “thoughts” for the day. Have a great one!
Who are your teachers?
We have the traditional teachers from the time we are born: our parents, our school teachers, our professors, our bosses…Some of us actively seek out spiritual teachers, religious teachers and other forms of guidance to help us on our path.
However, we often miss to see that there are so many teachers in our lives beyond those we seek out.
I have had many teachers in my life who have taught me about myself, who have taught me about life, who have taught me about the type of person I can and want to be. Through my teacher training at Ahimsa Yoga, JP Tamblyn-Sabo went beyond the role of yoga teacher and really helped me to see myself, all my strengths and areas for improvement – both on and beyond the mat. I had several professors in University during my Master’s who taught me to support others, while nourishing myself. Lots of great learning, and I am so grateful for these teachers.
However, teachers come in many forms, and it depends on whether or not we are willing to receive the “message”, the learning, the lesson. We tend to think of “teachers” as being always supportive, and protective of us. Nonetheless, some of the greatest lessons we can learn in life come from the most emotionally difficult interactions. All of us come into contact with people who aggravate us, who get under our skin, who hurt our feelings. We often write these people off as “A-holes”, but I think there is a lot more to it. Our encounters with others (especially those negative ones) can force us to truly face and see ourselves. It can become a great learning experience – albeit a very challenging one – if we are willing to be “awake” to it.
As much as we are grateful for the more traditional teachers in our lives, I wonder if we can also be grateful for the individuals who have caused us emotional pain and discomfort? It all depends how we look at the situation: we can choose to perceive these individuals negatively – which is the more natural response – or (as Cezary Rataj would say) thank them for allowing us to see ourselves more clearly. They can teach us about how we represent ourselves to others, how we react in given situations, and can also teach us about who we are and who we want to be.
As the Buddhist proverb quotes, “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”
Thoughts for the day. Have a great one!
I was recently thinking about a very important teaching in yoga called The Three Malas, which are the three veils that prevent us from seeing our true nature, our true selves. I first learned about The Three Malas in my yoga teacher training at Ahimsa Yoga, and thought I would spend the next three weeks focusing on each one separately. The first of the Malas is the Anava Mala, which is the veil that disconnects us from our true selves, resulting in low self-esteem, insecurity, and preoccupation with self. (more…)
I have been thinking a lot lately about LOVE. What IS love, what does it mean to us, how does it affect us? I recently read the book The 5 Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman, who is an anthropologist and psychotherapist. This book really made me think… about LOVE. Chapman describes how he has learned through his 30 years as a marital therapist that there are 5 primary love languages. (more…)
In the first ten years of our lives, we are like sponges – taking in all of the information from our surroundings without the ability to decipher what is useful or helpful to us. We don’t yet have the emotional or cognitive development to be able to know what is hurtful to us, so we just take it all in. (more…)