The Art of Winning Blog

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Holiday Insanity: A Ninja Perspective

I'm super aware this Holiday season of all the projections and expectations and disappointments that arise around the holidays. And I'm totally jazzed by it and grateful for it. Sometimes the holidays are when it feels like we all really get real. We let our expectations be known. We strive to create something perfect. The perfect meal. The perfect gift. The perfect night. Each time we strive for perfection, to be perfect, it is because there's a deeper need--love, happiness, enlightenment, joy, etc. I'm so grateful for this craziness at the holidays because there's a vulnerability here. There's a willingness to say "this is what I'm looking for right now." There's a willingness to try and fail spectacularly, to see each other at our most raw, our wits end, our breaking point and to still be there for each other. In the past few years, I've developed an immense gratitude for the witnessing of the shadow side, in myself and others. What a gift when someone is willing to let you see past the veneer and into the heart of what they truly desire. Happy holidays everyone. I see you. 

For a bit of holiday cheer and my inspiration for this post, please watch this awesome video. The DropKick Murphy's capture the spirit of true gratitude for the insanity of reality.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Resiliency, Pigsties, and Choice

So here's something you probably already know about me: I'm brilliantly resilient. I'm the type of girl who could be thrown naked out of plane, land in a pigsty and sing Katy Perry songs on my way to the feeding trough. At the trough, I'd meet the farmer and her husband and they'd give me a shower and some clothes. Then I'd skip away looking for whoever threw me out of the plane. And every single bit of it would be fun because I'd insist on it. 

The thing is, that power has a dark side. It's the side where I don't notice I'm being kidnapped and put on plane, though I was probably enjoying myself up to that moment to. At times, I've allowed my ability to handle whatever comes my way as an excuse not to chose,to let circumstance unfold around me. I like to see what happens and then chose how to deal with it. 

As I was visioning this blog post, it suddenly occurred to me--what if I'd never gotten on the plane? I know I'm suppose to think that I'm grateful for the plane and everything that happened because it's made me who I am today and in truth, I am. I also want to stop getting on the same plane, to chose something different for myself and the people around me. What if I stayed and worked on the farm? What if I hijacked the plane and threw everyone else out? What if I flew First Class to Portugal and spent a month playing on the beach?

I also thought of a bunch of artificial rules I could make up for myself to trick myself into believing I wasn't getting on that plane again. Luckily, that made me so nauseous that I recognized the fallacy. Those rules would ensure I never got thrown out of plane, but off the back of a boat instead, bleeding, in shark infested waters. Though I'm also the girl who would be rescued by dolphins and ride one to safety. There's no rule I can follow. There's only total awareness in every precious moment.

Choice is about more than knowing what the choices are. It's knowing what's in alignment with the energy and space I be, not just what's expeditious or harmonious in any given moment. It's about harmony with myself first and others second.  It's about knowing the fullness of myself, including the dark side of my powers. 

What about you? What powers do you have that you can't even acknowledge because to notice them would encourage you to notice their dark side? Are you willing to step into choice and awareness, even when you don't like it? I choose to write my story, with choice and consciousness and to allow all aspects of my superpowers. I may still jump out of a few planes but I'll do it knowing how I got there. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Falling, Pain, and Getting Up

So last night I fell, hard, fast, and with witnesses which is pretty much the worst combination that doesn't end in maiming or dying. As I've thought about it, I've had two learnings running simultaneously but since I can't write multiple streams at once. Have patience. I'll get it all out eventually.

First was the physical experience. It's been a long time since I fell quite so spectacularly. Usually I can find my balance before I hit the ground and I've pulled off some amazing feats of athleticism simply to avoid falling. In the past, time skips when I fall. I'm standing and I come back to awareness having already fallen. Last night, I got to experience every moment of the fall. As I caught my foot, my body turned and I was heading head-long into the island. I tried to recover but my foot was still caught in the opposite direction of my momentum. So I twisted in the air like a alligator roll to move my head in another direction and slammed (seriously slammed) my lowermost ribs into the island. I kicked my foot free as I impacted and then finished rolling by sitting on the floor and breathing. "Yes I'm OK but it hurts a fuck lot so give me a moment." I wasn't sure I wasn't bleeding but I was sure I didn't break the rib so that was a plus. It took a few minutes before I could touch it to see if it was bleeding then a few more before I was willing to move. And even more before I was willing to talk to anyone. Now 12 hours later, it's in a weird state of swelling but not bruising. It'll develop over the next few days before it totally lets go.

So here's what I learned/remembered.

1. As a martial artist, I train so that I can respond when "bad" things happen. I can't always stop them from happening, though the control freak in me would love to. But we can respond when things happen. We can nudge the outcome. We can take the brunt in our side, not our head. Micro tweaks and awareness make all the difference.

2. As I watch the movie in my brain, I realize how much it parallels all pains. It's just on a different scale. What takes a few days in the body, can take a few years in our soul. I don't need to judge that. It's just the way we heal. Wow.

Have a beautiful day Boulder and if you fall down 7 times, get up 8.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Change, Choice, and Vows

The other day a new friend was asking me about my business and I found myself unusually stuck. Not in talking about the business itself--that's easy. I can wax ad nauseum about To-Shin Do, actualization, choice, and change for hours. Though I'd rather you just got on the mat and saw for yourself. No, this stuckness was around the success of the business because she said it looked like I was pretty successful, and in my heart, I hedged. Whoa! Really? I've spent 9 years building a business that now has 158 students who are all exploring personal transformation and mastery. I've got incredible staff who thrives on sharing this art and our school. When I walk in the space, everyone is happy and eager. It's a blessing and a gift. 

Of course, my first instinct was to ask myself Why but Why is one of the most useless questions on the planet because it depends answers that are, at best, incomplete and at worst, completely wrong. Have you ever gotten attached to answer and spent time investing in that answer only to realize you'd misunderstood all along? That's my issue with Why. 

So I turned to feeling the energy instead. The first thing I noticed was that I felt closed (which is weird for me). As I opened up to all the energies and invited them to be nothing other than themselves, I expanded. I stopped holding. I let myself feel all the beauty and adventure that's been created and still has yet to created. I like this space. It's where I can create from. It makes me want to dance, or paint, or do the books, or tackle my To Do list. There's no hedging, fighting, or resisting. It's allowance. 

More than that, it's my inspiration for blind work. It's the expansion of training in enclosed spaces with the lights off. It's the freedom of doing races blindfolded. It's interacting with my world with all my senses open and available to receive.

So I made myself a promise. It's one I've made before and one I'll probably make again. Each time I renew this vow, it's a little deeper, more knowing then before. I promise to keep making my world bigger, to be the stardust in this vast universe and never confine myself to smallness. I vow to not hedge, to own my successes and my failures as information, not judgments, to explore change and choice. And if I forget, I give you each permission to remind me. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Contribution: A Poem


I love you
In all your forms.
Even rumpled and dirty, 
So old that history 
has replaced your features
With smudge marks.
I love you
When you make a raucous. 
When you're so loud I can barely hear myself
And as we run to the ice cream truck
You make my palm sweaty.
I've loved you since the Tooth Fairy,
Since I learned you were magic,
Showing up in ways 
And places unexpected. 
I love you
For the freedoms you bring me,
The lacy undergarments,
The delicious food,
The powerful engine of my car.
I love you for being there,
Growing and letting go,
Contributing to the beingness in my world.
I love you
In all your forms.
I love you in paper, coin, credit, and just as numbers on my screens.
Thank you for all you be.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Nature of Change

When I first came to CO, it was for a Naropa Ecopsycology program. I was attracted to Ecopsychology because of the premise that answers are found in nature. One of my first experiences was a solo nature hike that I did on Flagstaff. I went into the wilderness with the question "what is the nature of change?" At the time, I didn't realize the second part of my question, "how do I consciously choose change?"  I expected the answer to pop into my head at some point (because that's how it works for me) but that didn't happen until just this morning. But to stay back in 2004 for a few more minutes, I did have 2 profound messages on that hike, though neither was verbal (and only one is relevant to this topic so I'm going to save the other story. Yes, I'm a tease, deal with it.)

So on this hike, I'm starting to get frustrated because the answers aren't coming to me. The answers always come to me. I'm doubting myself, thinking I must be doing it wrong. I'm not very good at this Ecopsychology stuff, maybe I shouldn't be here (Flagstaff, Naropa, CO, earth). Recognizing this futility, I take a deep breath and look up. As my gaze widens and refocuses, I'm looking out into a sea of evergreens, with a single yellow deciduous tree among hundreds of acres of green screaming "I am the answer." To which I say "ok. I don't know what you mean but I sense you. Thank you."

For the next 10 years, I've continually come back to this question "what is the nature of change and how can I choose it consciously?" Some days, I'm afraid to choose change. I'm much more comfortable when change is happening to me and I can ride it with aplomb. When I'm choosing change, it's scratchy and irritating. 

Fast forward to this morning. Butterflies are caterpillars who got rid of the stuff that wasn't a butterfly. Leaves don't change colors. The green leaves and the other colors become visible. When you change, you do not become something else. You become more of something which was always in you. If you don't consciously choose change, it'll choose you. 

One more thing, I can't control what the changes looks like but I can steer the direction. These pictures are are of a Black Swallowtail. I would never have guessed from that caterpillar, that butterfly would emerge. Holding the intention of the direction of change (to butterfly) allows me the emotional freedom to allow colors and beauty to simply emerge as fits the scheme of totality. Because what if I can be even more brilliant, do even more good work, shine ever more brightly than I have ever imagined? 

Photos courtesy of Bored Panda. Check out the full article because it's awesome.

Friday, October 3, 2014

My Experience of Invisibility and the Student Creed

The past two years have been a new level of stress for me. For the first time since my teens, and maybe even more than my teens, my mind was more in command than I was. Previous to this stress, when I was under stress, I could retreat into my mind and it was a beautifully clear space. Now I was finding that I couldn't even focus long enough to take a breath. Seriously. It took multiple attempts to just focus for the entirety of a single breath. Thank goodness I have an amazing store of willpower that kept me coming back again and again to the discipline of focused breathing. One of my inquiries in these meditations was exploring how the mind can get so wrapped up and attached (and on the systematic detachment of attachments to allow my love and joy to be my guides).

During one of these meditations, I remembered one of the teachings about Marishi-Ten. In the particular teaching I remembered, Marishi's brilliance in hiding the sun in plain sight--so bright and beautiful that it was impossible to look directly at. This image became the focus of my meditation--how can I create an illuminating brilliance?

Then fear and doubt crept in. I've seen friends and family members devolve in a web of delusion and I am frankly terrified of this potential. If I was going to truly create brilliance--to trust in myself as an infinite being--how was I going to ensure I could believe in infinite potential without devolving in a mire of self-delusion?

A conversation in Tampa with Mark Sentoshi Russo kicked off my insights into the Student Creed. (Interestingly, I got awful food poisoning that trip but that exploration is for a different post.) Over the following months and years, I continued to pick at and mold this theory. What I came away with is the Student Creed as a tool for countering self delusion.

  1. I believe in myself. I know myself deeply with all levels of my being. I know what I stand for and I'm willing to make, and remake decisions, with every new moment. This foundation is a freeing relationship, rather than a limiting one. It's not a conscious listing of my beliefs, it's a subconscious, energetic understanding of my infinity.
  2. I believe in what I study. I keep coming back to the mat/cushion to honestly explore the lessons that excite and frustrate me. There were times when I forgot the basic movements and I had to go back to fundamental teachings. There were times I didn't want to. I just wanted to move forward, to be past it already. I could convince my mind I was all over it but getting on the mat was a way to measure exactly where I was. Whether it was exploring movement principles or looking at the mind practices, I just kept coming back to training.
  3. I believe in my teachers. I realized this was a resource I was under-utilizing. Certainly, I was drawing on my teachers for direct lessons, but I wasn't asking for support in being the person I really wanted to be. I mindfully picked 4 people that I trust to know my brightness. I gave them permission to call me on my bullshit (we all have it). These are the people whose feedback I'll trust, even if I don't want to. It was easy after the trauma to gravitate to the people who would reinforce my already held beliefs. I realized it was important for my growth to have people who would challenge me to grow.
How to Use It
Let's take an easy example. Say a friend asks you to keep a secret. Ask yourself: is it true to my being to keep this secret? How do I feel about being a keeper of this secret? Does it feel right to me?

Is it true to my beliefs and principles to keep this secret? Are there teachings I believe that have wisdom on the subject?

What would my role models do? Do they have any experience with this secret?
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