Lemonade and Gypsy Trips

Truth Byte #62

“Self-doubt will slow you down.”

 

When life gives you lemons, what do you do?

 

I know when I heard that phrase as a child, I panicked.  I had no idea how to make lemonade. The closest I ever got to that sweet and tart beverage was dumping a can of frozen pulp into a plastic jug and stirring.

 

Last summer, I learned how to make lemonade. From scratch. You see, my son has a friend whose older brother is a bit of an entrepreneur. With his mom’s encouragement, he made hundreds of dollars over the summer selling lemonade in the park. He didn’t think it through, didn’t really plan for it, just dove right in. Grabbed a folding table and his mom’s secret concoction, and off he went to the busiest walking and biking junction on the seawall to sell the good stuff. He didn’t have a permit or food safety training.

 

He was just a kid selling lemonade.

 

My son joined in one Saturday, and was amazed at the power of the lemonade chant they had devised. People actually stopped their bikes to buy from them! Mostly, he was stunned at the money he made. Over seventy dollars split three ways is a killing for a little kid.

 

We decided we would re-create the magic at our place.

 

And failed.

 

Because I just could not move through the self-doubt.

 

I wasn’t sure if my lemonade tasted right. Which made it harder for my little ones to sell to strangers.  They couldn’t say, like their friends did, “My mom makes the BEST lemonade in the whole world!” and then grin up at the customers through their long black lashes. They couldn’t jump and holler and sell the way they had in the park downtown.

 

Because I was hovering and correcting and apologizing.

 

And slowing them down.

 

That was a big lesson for me, one that I remember a year later.

 

My self-doubt slowed everything down.

 

I am very aware of how my self-doubt has quieted as we plan this summer’s adventure, our Epic Gypsy Road Trip. We are buying an old van, taking out the seats, and hitting the road for three weeks to finally drive the California Coast with our two kids. We have no plan, and no idea what we are doing, but the difference this time is I do not have any self-doubt. I am fully convinced, from the bottom of my heart, that we will figure things out.

 

I am that kid with the jug and folding table, fully trusting in the kindness of strangers.

 

And let’s be honest, there are times I have open-heartedly trusted someone and been badly burned. We all have. But still, that did not dim my optimism and hope that people are essentially good.

And that’s the legacy I want to pass on to my children.

And now you. What is your lemonade story? When did you doubt your skill, talent, or gut feeling? How did that slow things down for you? And what’s your Epic Gypsy Roadtrip story? Where have you been truly brave and had some incredible stories because of it?

 

This week, I would encourage you to have an adventure. It could be something simple like trying a new drink at your favourite coffee shop or taking a different route home from work, or something a little more involved like testing out a new campsite or swimming hole. Or maybe you are ready for something epic like starting a walking club or touring a new country. Whatever you choose, let it be something that will leave you with a story to tell.  Because a life lived with self-doubt is a life barely lived at all.

 

Have a question about spiritualty, psychology, relationships, or personal development? Email me at connect@talktosaira.com with your question, and I will answer it on my weekly YouTube Show: Ask Dr. Saira. Check out the first episode: Being an Optimist.

 

And keep your eyes peeled for my grown-up version of a lemonade stand: Chai and Chat! A weekly drop-in group on spirituality, personal development, and community-building that will officially launch after the summer. Details coming soon.

 

It’s your life, and only you can live it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Re-Writing My Story

Truth Byte #61

 

“Change your story, change your life.”

 

I finally got it. The phrase that captures what I am trying to do here in my little corner of cyber-space. I, Dr. Saira, have one message that has finally become clear to me:

 

change your story, change your life.

 

Over a year ago, my husband and I sat down for a serious conversation about what kind of future I saw for myself in my career. After a long, intense conversation (including a white-board-mind-map!), I could actually picture myself at my professional peak point. I saw myself teaching, counselling, and storytelling. I saw myself on a stage making the audience laugh while crying, and at the same time, I saw myself in a private, quiet room with one other person, helping them to get to the other side of their pain.  I saw a balanced life where I could make my own hours, where my paid work felt interesting and engaging, and yet did not intrude on my number one priority: the people I love.

 

It was the life I have always wanted.

 

I am a Gemini, a Monkey, and a 7 on the Enneagram. What that means is there are two distinct sides to my personality, and I love butterflying around from project to project. I don’t like to feel tied down, but when I put my mind to something, I fully commit. I am generally happy-go-lucky and it takes a lot to upset me, but when I am upset, everyone knows it because I am a deep feeler. I am wired to avoid emotional pain, and yet I know from experience that facing the heat of my inner demons makes me stronger, makes me happier, makes me more real.  One of the two sides of me I have kept somewhat private over the years, but now I am ready to bare it all.

 

Why am I telling you all this? Because one year ago, after I said it all out loud, I slowly and unknowingly got to the hard and insidious work of blowing it all up. I wished for what I wanted, and then I ran away from it. I was two steps away from that vision, with clients booking in every week, workshops on a regular basis, and a community of like-minded people that was turning into my tribe.

 

And it felt too good to be true.  So I sabotaged it.

 

But not on purpose.

 

I started veering off onto another track, forgetting my own vision. I abandoned the carefully formulated blueprint I had developed and let my whims guide me. I got caught up in sparkle and glitter and forgot to ask whether what I was metaphorically wearing actually flattered me at all.

 

And now it’s time to change my story.

 

Because when you change your story, you change your life.

 

Over the past ten years, my career story has been: I am good at what I do but I don’t know how to market myself or make the sale.  My career story has been: I have a lot of knowledge but people can find that information anywhere, so why would they look for me?  My career story has been: I am good, but not that great, and my clients can feel it.

 

And that story simply does not match the truth.

 

I am in the midst of a website re-design, and was looking through my testimonials.  Here is some of what came up on the current website (www.talktosaira.com):

 

“It is no secret that Dr. Saira saved me. She shone a light so bright into my darkness, I was forced to embrace the deepest parts of myself, and from there I learned to love myself, and find the will to live.”

 

“Dr. Saira is a Transpersonal Psychotherapist but I would prefer to call her a “Transformational Psychotherapist”. I have never experienced anything like her workshops before but after going I realized that we can step into happiness and joy in an instant.”

 

“Dr. Saira has empowered me to face my inner challenges and achieve a life that I love. Through her compassionate guidance and laser-like ability to focus on what’s really in my way, she has brought me to new depths of self-love and healing.”

 

And these are just three of the dozens and dozens and dozens of clients I have worked with over the last decade.

 

So again, why would you care? What is the point of sharing my inner musings about my career path with you?

 

The reason I share is because I think you care. 

 

And I think you care because I think if you have made it this far, you are probably just like me.  I think you tell yourself things, awful things, that are simply not true about you. I think from the outside you look like you are handling things, but on the inside you often feel like a five- year-old wearing your parent’s clothes, just pretending to adult with the rest of us.

 

I think you have a story, perhaps even a believable story, that you are ready to re-write.

 

And today, as Summer looms promisingly on the horizon, I would challenge you to begin re-writing. That story may be about how your past has created certain limitations in you.  That story might be about feeling trapped in a certain life situation.  That story may be about how un-loveable you are.  And I bet you if you asked a few people who knew you well to write you a testimonial, you would get a whole new story.

 

This is the year of my new story, and the year I re-visit the blueprint I developed during that powerful conversation with my husband. And I invite you, wholeheartedly, to join me. There are two new workshops coming up, a Summer workshop in Calgary for family members of those struggling with addiction, and a Fall workshop in Vancouver for couples with kids. I would love to see you there, and help you change your story.

 

It’s time to come back with to the deep end of the pool.  After all, we have spent so many years taking swimming lessons, right? If you are ready to dive in by getting on to my private mailing list or signing up for a workshop, PM me, or email me at connect@talktosaira.com. Check out (and like!) my Dr. Saira YouTube Channel for video clips teaching you how to change your story so you can actually have the life you always wanted.

 

It’s your life, and only you can live it.

Taking Off the Mask…again.

Truth Byte #60

 

“Being real will get you there.”

 

I have tried on a lot of flavours in my life. After my early years as teacher’s pet and uber-nerd, I moved to my teens where I tried hard to make hip-hop culture fit me, and then into my early twenties, when I joined the pseudo-spirituality of the New Agers.

 

It is finally now, in my later thirties, that I am settling in to a hybrid version of all these other identities. I have come to peace with loving books more than people and the urgent-yet-glazed feeling I get when I am wrist-deep in a new novel. I have internalized the struggles of the marginalized, joining marches and protests when there is a social issue I just can’t keep quiet about. And I Feng Shui my house, and teach my kids how to stop their bodies from bruising through simple energy healing techniques.

 

What I have learned through the years is that no one group or philosophy really encompasses all of me.

 

I am a complicated flavour.

 

Until just a few weeks ago, I was trying to simplify myself, highlighting only one side of my personality and perspective at the expense of everything else.

 

I was trying to be happy, while forgetting to be real.

 

Today, I am being honest with you and myself: being real has got me this far in my life, love, work, and relationships, and being real is what is going to move me forward.

 

In my professional life, being real is what I teach my clients to do.  Most people who come to me are doing well in most areas of their lives, but there is one thing that just isn’t clicking for them.  Whether it’s a relationship issues with a loved one or colleague, whether it’s dissatisfaction at work, whether it’s a crisis of meaning, or whether it’s a persisting low mood that they just can’t shake, people come to me for a roadmap out of the minefield of their emotions.

 

And before we can even construct that roadmap, they need to remove their masks. It’s the only way they can see clearly.

 

Most of us have been constructing our masks for at least a decade or two.  We have been deliberately deciding what we will and will not show “the world”, our workmates, our acquaintances, even those in our closest circles. Most of us have learned that the only way to be successful is to be “on” most of the time, and most of us suffer from the unconscious fear that if people REALLY knew us, they would be horrified.

 

We are afraid to be alone, so we do our best to be liked.

 

But at what cost?

 

I’ll tell you what it cost me.

 

I took off my mask years ago, and then dedicated decades of time and effort into keeping it off so I could be real. I even entered a field (transpersonal psychology) that encourages people to remove their myriad of masks in order to move towards wholeness and wellness.

 

About six months ago, for some strange reason, I found myself behind the mask again. I was so desperate to by liked by certain people in my circle, that I found I would rather go along with them then think for myself. I would rather stray from my own vision for my work in the world and tag along with them than admit that our visions weren’t matched.

 

I would rather say yes then disappoint anyone.

 

And at the time, I didn’t see what I was doing.

 

Now I do.

 

And now I am changing.

 

From today, I promise to be real, even when it’s easier to just seem happy on the outside. If I am struggling, I will tell you. If I am joyous, you will know it. If I am confused and not sure what my next steps are, I will be honest about that.  And I will ask you, the people who actually care, the people who are committed to being real in their own lives, to hold me to that promise.

 

And what about you? Have you been hiding out, pretending you are fine when what you really need is a good, long cry? Have you been spending precious time around people who don’t really see you rather than giving in to just being alone? And if you have been brave enough to take off the mask, are you doing things each and every day to ensure that it stays off?

 

This life is too short to spend behind a mask, and if happiness is what we truly seek, I believe being real is what will get us there. It's time for a ground-breaking event, and I want to tell you all about it.  For those who are ready for a real conversation about the complicated and conflicted realities of dealing with an addicted loved one, please consider joining me for my one-day intensive workshop in Calgary, Alberta this July, titled Addiction Needs Connection. You can email me at connect@talktosaira.com for more details.

 

It’s your life, and only you can live it.

My Two Grad Dates (and Other Secrets)

Truth Byte #59

“Somebody adores you, even when you can’t.”

 

I am on a personal retreat this week. And while I ponder the big and small choices I have made over the year since my last retreat, a lot of good “ahas” are coming up. Last year, just after coming home from my retreat, I wrote Truth Byte #14, That’s Not Really a Tiger, about how to be gentler with ourselves. Today, I want to tell you something else.  Today I want to tell you that somebody adores you, even when you don’t have the capacity to adore yourself.

 

Let me tell you a story. I was in twelfth grade, and it was the evening of my high school graduation party. I had two (yes two!) dream-come-true dates, a guy from my faith community that I had crushed on for two years as we went out on group excursions and attended religious education classes, and another that made my heart flutter every time I passed his desk in Chemistry class who I secretly loved for all three years of high school. I actually used to go to “the bathroom” two or three times every class I had with him just so I could pass by Bachelor Number Two, make eye contact, and get a whiff of “he’s-not-just-a-boy-he’s-a-man-because-he-wears-it” cologne.  Maybe that explains my less-than-stellar final marks in that class...

 

But I digress, back to the plot line.

 

The first guy was good friends with my cousins, and so he had been to all the birthday parties and family events and had been the old-enough driver for all our teenage shenanigans. Funny that I had two major teenage crushes on two completely different guys, but I guess even back then I was trying to keep my options open.  That plus I was too chicken to actually say anything to either of them.

 

I wore a custom-made parrot green and gold outfit, a Indo-fusion ball gown down to the floor with my midriff bare, ready to parade my Indian heritage publicly for the first time around my high school friends.  I even wore an Indian tiara of sorts. My hair was up in a hundred, thousand cascading curls, and my shoes were off the charts. I felt like the most beautiful girl to ever step onto the sidewalk outside my house.

 

So a little interlude here to explain the Indian part. 

 

Growing up, I had two lives: my public, Canadian life and my private, ethnic life.  Before the days of social media, it was quite simple to keep these two apart. When I was little, we often had two birthday parties, one for my school friends, and the other for my extended family, my Indo-Canadian friends and their siblings and parents, and who ever happened to be visiting any of the families that weekend, including elderly grandparents who would snooze in the corner.

 

The school parties would be typical, standard, what-you-see-on-TV drop-off the-kids parties with all the right mainstream decorations and food and beverages, while the Indo birthday parties would be basically a large family get-together with a big pot of something home-cooked, a cake if someone remembered, lots of bowls of cassava chips with lemon and chili, and the dozens of kids and cousins playing together in the basement until someone remembered to sing Happy Birthday.

 

My eighteenth birthday was a blended diva extravaganza, but we will get to that another day.

 

Like so many of my friends from immigrant backgrounds, I led a double life.  There was the public face and what my school friends saw, and then there was the rich, private secret reserved for the evenings and weekends with my family and my ethnic/faith community.  There was only one person, my best friend, that crossed into both the worlds, because though she was from the Caribbean, she could “pass” as Indo-Canadian, so she knew all the hidden colours and complexities of my competing loyalties and patchwork values.  She knew and respected my extended family and the nuances of our conservative-yet-modern-matriarchal-hierarchy, and that she would probably have to do chores every time she came for a sleepover and watch my mother shout at us in another language.

 

But she adored me, completely, so I never worried about being judged by her.

 

All that to explain why it was a big deal for me to wear and Indian outfit to grad!  So, back to the story.

 

Date Number One arrived to pick me up in a white stretch limo in my lower-middle-class neighborhood. It was the most magical moment in my teenage life. All that opulence, just for me. So all my cousins came outside and we took a picture together in front of a limo.

 

Oh, did I mention, not only did I have two dates, seven of my cousins and an entire table of parents, aunties, uncles, and grandparents from other cities came along on the grad date too?  We bought 22 tickets for grad.  Most other families had four people at the most. The most.

 

So I guess it was more like a group thing. But I like to think I had game back then, so I continue pretending I had two dates.

 

The limo ride was pretty amazing, as it was the first time I could ever remember being completely alone with this guy.  I had butterflies the whole way and we toasted with bottled water poured into champagne glasses (because really, I had no game and neither did he!) We arrived at the grad venue, and all the siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, parents, and grandparents were waiting for us outside in their finest, fancy evening outfits.  We collectively decided that since it was my night I should have the most bling, so my gorgeous and smashing siblings and cousins toned it down slightly just for that night.  But we were a good-looking gaggle for sure, especially my mom and aunts in their sexiest “I’m-a-mom-of-an-almost-adult-but-damn-I-still-look-good” dresses.

 

We all bustled into the lobby, where Date Number Two was waiting.  My girl cousins ushered me ahead, and again, that cologne made me sweetly nauseous. Or maybe it was just being beside this tall, brooding, heart throb that I had loved for three years straight. Him and I went inside, and the rest of the group followed, my cousins and friends strategically sandwiching me between my two dates.

 

The stories from that night are incredible and hilarious, and since what happens in high school stays in high school, I will leave the rest of the details to your imagination. Just keep in mind I was a straight-A student who loved books, taking advanced courses who never drank and had only kissed one boy – and none of that changed that night.  So not really much to imagine.  But for a goodie-goodie-over-achiever-perfectionist, it was a wild night!  The best part was the impromptu after-party that my older cousin hosted at his house that ricocheted me into the popular group for the last three weeks of high school.

 

So what’s the point? Why this story?

 

The reason I tell you that story is because that night is a touch-point for me, and I wanted you to be able to see it with the rich vividness that I still remember it, almost twenty years later.  That was the night that the people around me demonstrated how much they adored me.  They dolled up, came out, and danced until the morning. They made arrangements, flew in, and celebrated me. They showed me that I am worth celebrating in the most extravagant way. And even though I was controlling and moody and hard to manage during my teenage years, my family showed me that I was simply enough, and that they would show up when I asked them to.

 

And that wasn’t the only time they did that for me.

 

Graduating high school for me was not a huge achievement, because I was a smarty pants, and no one ever doubted that I would graduate. What the achievement was for me that night was to actually reveal my secret second life.  I was courageous enough, in an environment of broken and bitter families, to  show the world how loved I was, to not be ashamed of it or embarrassed by it, but to let that adoration be seen and noticed by my classmates and teachers. We were loud, there were a lot of us, and we loved each other to the point of no return.  My school friends finally saw it that night.

 

I had an important and textured life outside of school, and no longer was this a secret.

 

The summer before this graduation party, my older cousin, more like a sister, died in a tragic car accident. I was with her, along with other cousins and her sister. I never though our family would come back from that. We still miss her and mourn her, both together and privately. And she was my biggest fan. So when she died, I never though I would find a way to really let other people love me, to let them adore me despite my own self-doubt.

 

But I did that night.

 

And so can you.

 

This week, I would challenge you to look for touch-points in your own life. These are the moments that you felt truly adored and celebrated. You might look through old pictures or talk to people who knew you when you were younger. Then, on the days when you feel alone or like no one cares, bring to mind those touch-points. On days that your family is driving you bananas or when you just can’t get through another petty conflict, remember that they continue to adore you, even if they are not always showing you.  And if your family wasn’t quite like that, and you haven’t been able to work out the past with them, then perhaps it’s time to recruit members to join your tribe, so you can be that for each other.

 

You are worth it, and you are loved. Always.  More at http://www.talktosaira.com/

The Upside of Getting it Wrong

Truth Byte #58

 “It’s okay to make mistakes you can learn from.”

 

As a recovered perfectionist, I had a hard time believing it’s okay to make mistakes for decades. I believed, deep inside myself, that mistakes were the result of poor self-control or a lack of planning or some personal weakness finally come to light. I was okay with other people making mistakes, but if I did something wrong, it deeply impacted my self-worth and ignited this caustic self-talk that would burn holes in my sense of personal worth and goodness. I was really determined to be as perfect as I could be in the areas that mattered to me.
What that meant is that I really didn’t take many risks.

 

Because I didn’t want to fail.

 

Since my fiery and fierce daughter was born four year ago, I have felt vicariously the glittery temptation of trying new things. Some of these things that she does naturally, such as reaching out and making friends with strangers, have had amazing results for me recently.  In less than two dozen months I have built a meaningful and connected community of like-minded friends and colleagues. Other risks didn’t end so well, and had me feeling like I lost track of who I am and what’s important to me.

 

Recently, I have had one of these experiences where something I tried professionally for the last year is coming to it’s natural conclusion, and I am re-starting the projects that are closer to my heart. For the first week after the decision to re-focus, I was a mess.  I kept hearing that voice inside telling me I shouldn’t have tried something so far away from my comfort zone, and that now I have to run even faster to catch up to where I “should be” by now in my career. But something is different this time, which is why I am telling you this story.

 

The Dr. Saira of five years ago would have spent the next six months dissecting all the actions leading up to the “risk” and finding 101 ways to beat myself up for all the big and little choices I made along the way.

 

Not this time.

 

This time, I am excavating the lessons.

 

Here are the five things I have learned from my latest professional recalibration:

 

  1. Only I can define me.

I was relying on the people around me to help me define who I was as a mental health professional, what my “big vision” looked like, and to teach me how to stand out in my field.  What I have learned is that while those close to me generally do have my best interests at heart, only I can say definitively who I am and what I stand for.

 

  1. My experience is valuable.

I have been practicing therapy for over ten years.  That is a real currency that I was undervaluing. When you have years of experience and have grown and developed along the way, you have something rich to offer. I was assuming that newer graduates in my field were more relevant than me, and that my experience was a liability because I was not as “current”. Big oops. My experience matters, and it has shaped me into the transpersonal psychotherapist that I am. Period.

 

  1. I must listen to my people.

There are some people in my life, very close to me, who saw where I was headed and tried to warn me. I didn’t listen. They told me softly, then they told me loudly, then they just stopped telling me. I now see that there are a small cluster of people who are my warriors, and will go to battle for me, and have no other agenda except my happiness. But if I am not listening, there is nothing they can do.

 

  1. I need to stop trying to fit in.

I have had this issue since I was little, and it stemmed from trying to fit in with the cool kids in fourth grade. What I have internalized about myself in the last few months is to own who I am and let the right people find me rather than chasing after the perceived cool kids in my adult world. When I relax into my own flavour, I feel better and I don’t have to try so hard to belong or be liked. It’s a huge relief.

 

  1. I must be my full self, even if it’s too much.

Some of us have big personalities, and I am one of those people.  And I have spent so much of my life toning it down so the people around me don’t feel threatened or squeezed out. What I know now is that dimming my light does a huge disservice to me professionally, personally, emotionally, and most important: spiritually. Not everyone will like me or feel comfortable around me. I have to really get okay with that. Because making myself smaller to make other people feel better is no longer an option.

 

Sometimes we take a risk and it opens the doors to a whole new life. Sometimes the risk leads to a branched off and unexpected path that we didn’t know was there before. This week, I would ask you to look into your current situation and see if you are living those five lessons. Are you defining yourself or letting other people define you? Are you valuing or undervaluing your life experiences and are you considering the unique perspective you bring to the table? Are you figuring out who your people are and really listening to them? Are you trying too hard to fit in? Are you showing up fully, no matter the mixed responses to your bigness? And what other lessons have you learned over then past few weeks as you recalibrate, whether its at work, at home, or in the private inner spaces of your heart?

 

No need to ridicule or berate ourselves for mistakes, but rather let’s commit to seeing miscalculations as opportunities to learn and grow.  As I walk this new, unseen path this Spring, I ask you to join me. I am re-launching my personal development workshop series as some of my other joint ventures are coming to completion. If you are already part of our tribe, let me know what you want to see more of so I can shape this next phase of Dr. Saira with you in mind.  Send me your questions and ideas at connect@talktosaira.com Looking forward to doing this together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five Ways to Stay Stuck

Truth Byte #57

 “Change and growth are different things.”

 

The one constant in life is change. Kids grow taller, wear and tear impacts our highways, and our bodies age.  Change happens with the passage of time. It’s just Nature’s law.  However, change does not necessarily predict growth, especially when it comes to people.

Let me tell you a little story.  I know someone who tries new things all the time.  She moves from this project to that project and has a lot of fun doing it.  Downside: she is still telling me the same stories about how “life is so hard” that she was telling me fifteen years ago.

Lots of changes, little growth.

Here’s another one. I had a client who had seen over five therapists in the last ten years.  Before he met me, he had tried whatever they taught him, attempting to implement all the homework and self-reflection he could.  Every month he was reading a new book about personal development. Downside: he was still stuck in the same cycle of one failed relationship after another. Lots of change, not much growth.
Why does this happen?

Why is it so hard for people to grow?

Over the years I have worked with many clients who, within a few short weeks, begin to see transformational growth in their lives.  What are they doing that these other people were missing? Those who are ready for growth have been willing to take a dive into the murky water of the inner landscape, and often have hired help to do it.  Here are my top five reasons people don’t genuinely grow.

 

  1. They believe they are right.

This is a sticky one.  There is a term in psychology called “confirmation bias”.  This is the unconscious tendency to unknowingly seek out things that agree with our pre-held beliefs and ignore things that do not.  In this way, we are always proving to ourselves that we are right.

 

  1. They can’t admit when they are wrong.

How hard is it to say you are sorry? Yet, this is one of the first lessons we are taught as children. It is super hard to admit that you are wrong, and even more complicated because of “belief perseverance”.  Science shows that even after we are presented evidence to the contrary, we will tend to believe our own original ideas.

 

  1. They blame other people.

It’s easier to make someone else the bad guy than to admit you are the one with the problem.  It’s easier to look outside of yourself and see the people around you as flawed then to admit you have a gap in personal development or a blind spot where you are consistently behaving in ways that trigger other people.  Those who look outside of themselves to navigate how they should feel have an “external locus of control”, meaning situations outside of them dictate how they feel and how they react.

 

  1. They hold a grudge.

Many people have stories about how they were wronged.  That’s just the human condition. But all the wisdom traditions around the world teach the value of forgiveness.  When we hold a grudge, we keep reinforcing to ourselves that our way was correct, and see the situation only from our own point of view.  When those kinds of experiences come up in the future (because we repeat lessons we have not yet learned), we approach them the same way.  Result: no real growth. (Check out Forgive for Good by Dr. Fred Luskin to let go of your own grudges once and for all.)

 

  1. They don’t have emotional maturity.

Feelings are important.  They let us know what we should be doing next and what to avoid. We were born to feel, as many mammals are. Feelings have developed to biologically support us in making good choices for our survival. But many people are emotionally stunted.  They never really learned how to process feelings in a healthy way, so they are either overly stoic or drowning in a whirlwind of feelings.  When we don’t have emotional maturity, we handle life’s plot lines in an ineffective way. There may be lots of changes in our lives, but no real growth.

So why would a person want to grow? It seems like hard work to know when you are wrong, engage in forgiveness, and feel your feelings like a grown-up would. It seems easier to just be that person who changes activities, relationships, homes, or jobs on a regular basis, but does not really change anything on the inside.  Lord knows so many people are walking around this planet today just superficially engaging in change.

Why wouldn’t you be like everybody else?

My guess is, if you have read this far, it’s because you want something deeper, something more meaningful for your own life.  You want to feel the fullness of this life, and to watch yourself as you evolve through your own stages of development, from not knowing what lurks within to actually being brave enough to exploring those spaces inside.  You are one of the deep thinkers, the deep feelers, the empaths that the world has been waiting for.  You know the value of transformation, and you are tired of living a caterpillar’s life when you can see the butterfly potential inside of you.

If you are ready for transformation, I would invite you to join my tribe.  We are growing every, single day. We are a group of people around the world who believe in the potential for human change, and that the inner space is the final frontier before true happiness.  We know that the planet will only heal once we heal ourselves.  We are ready to do whatever it takes to bring peace, one “I’m sorry” at a time.

How do you join us? Start by checking out the videos on my website: www.talktosaira.com, and then sign up for the mailing list, or send me a personal note at connect@talktosaira.com . If you are already a groupie, please invite those in your own circles to join in.  The more minds and hearts we have, the stronger the impact we will have.

We truly can grow, beyond our wildest beliefs.

How Yoga Saved my Baby

Truth Byte #56

 

“It’s better to bend than to break.”

 

I have been learning the last few weeks about flexibility. I get moving in a certain direction, and then I have to pivot, to quickly and effortlessly turn on the spot as Life throws me an unexpected, better opportunity.

 

I know, it’s a good problem to have.

 

And I learned this same lesson many years ago, in a much more painful way: yoga.

 

So let me take you back there, to the halls of my graduate program where we were learning about all things spiritual.  One of the graduation requirements was that we adopt a body discipline.  First year, it was mandatory Aikido. Amazing, loved it, but I wanted to try something new by second year.

 

Enter Course 234: Yoga.

 

Now, as an Indo-Canadian, I thought “how hard could it really be?” Mind you, my only context for yoga was from this one Bollywood film where men and women practiced yoga for hours to prepare for a cricket match that would determine the fate of their village.  It looked a lot less intimidating than what Rocky Balboa had to go through in the Hollywood rendition of small fry against big fish. Basically, they were just standing around in weird poses, and bowing down to the sun (to the background of inspiring drumbeats and a catchy “let’s go get ‘em!” Hindi tune about how it’s our land and colonizers be damned.)

 

There wasn’t even any sweat involved.

 

How hard could it really be?

 

It was part of my cultural heritage, right? I could do this.  I just had to awaken that dormant Indian yogi inside me and I would be warrior-posing my head off in no time.

 

My friend presented me with a brand new yoga mat and we were off, into the land of stretches and Sanskrit.

 

What a fail.

 

The first thing I realized was that my Indian ancestry gave me no advantage.

 

None. At. All.

 

It sounds funny now when I think about it, but back then, it was a shock.  While I had picked up all these other “back home things” through osmosis (head wobble, accent on demand, gyrating dance moves), yoga had just not made the cut somehow.

 

Maybe it was partly because I never saw an Indian person ever roll out a yoga mat.

 

Ever.

 

In my life.

 

And I knew a hell of a lot of Indian people.

 

Yoga seemed to be this new and trendy thing that white people were doing in clothing that my mother and her friends would blush about.

 

So there I was, struggling to stand on one foot and breathe while the people around me had serene and knowing looks on their closed-eye, big-smile faces.

 

I hated them all.

 

Just for a moment.

 

Then I had to embody the yogi and forgive them all.  And forgive myself.  This yoga thing involved a lot of forgiving.

 

I remember near the end of the class when the teacher called “child’s pose” a resting pose.  My legs were on fire with pins and needles as the searing pain in my thighs and knees screamed at me to get the hell out of there. Pain. Everywhere. And everyone else was so peaceful.  Resting.

 

Not me.

 

What I learned as I dove headfirst into my body’s rigidity that first yoga class was that I had never asked myself to be flexible before.  Not metaphorically, not emotionally, and definitely not physically.  I was the one who studied the rules, stuck to them, and got results.  I was the one who did what she was told, and paved her way to academic success.  I was the one who was uptight, anal, controlling, but it always got me the A++.

 

That was not going to work here.  Not in this class.

 

In this class, I had to learn to let go.  I had to ease into things instead of figuring out a roadmap and diving in full force.  I had to allow my body to slowly, very slowly, learn about itself again.  I had to get my head out of the way.

 

My current Vietnamese yoga teacher at the gym starts every class with this line: “Yoga is not for perfect. It’s for practice”.

 

I used to do everything “for perfect”. I used to be the high achiever, the one who would be called up six times in a row for the six top honor roll medals or whatever.  And that was my identity. I was a winner, and I never let up. I always moved forward.  But yoga forced me to stay still.  To feel the discomfort of never-used muscles and understand that I was indeed off-balance, no matter how many mantel-trophies I collected.

 

Yoga taught me that if I wasn’t willing to bend, the only other option was to break.

 

Life has broken me four times throughout my years.  The first time was when my parents’ marriage failed and I was left fatherless at 10 years old.  The second was when my cousin died in a tragic car accident and I was 16.  The third was my first young-love heartbreak at 20.

 

I have never healed fully from those first three breaks.  The scars are still there, and the muscles still hurt when I think about those times. Despite dozens of personal development workshops and therapy sessions over the years, those three breaks caused a shattering that made me into a different person, more calloused, more wary, more protected, more rigid.

 

The first three breaks happened before I learned about yoga, and the fourth one after. I actually went to prenatal yoga in the months leading up to that fourth break, the one that taught me how to bend.

 

So here’s the story. After a very difficult pregnancy, my son was born by emergency caesarean.  I felt ripped off because of an old wive’s tale I was holding on to about “a difficult pregnancy means and easy delivery”, and everything about the labour and delivery was awful.  Why do people say these things to pregnant women??

 

After the surgery, I had undiagnosed post-partum depression, and couldn’t bond with my baby for months. It was when I looked into those little eyes that needed me so desperately that I had to find the resolve in the deepest part of my self to get out of bed and pick him up.  It was the first time in my adult life that I actually let people help me without micro-managing them, and realized that there were other “ways” that were just as valid (and maybe even more effective!) than mine.

 

The bending into motherhood saved me from losing myself and helped me to find my love for my baby.  Bending prevented a break, that this time would have not only impacted me, but my son and my marriage as well.

 

I don’t think I will break again.

 

Because now I know how to bend.

 

And you can’t unlearn a downward dog.

 

This week is a chance to reflect on where in our lives we need to just bend.  What is it that you are being too rigid about? What are you so invested in that a change would devastate you? Where are you just not willing to accept help or another point of view? When Life throws a challenge at you, will you stand until the wind is knocked out of you, or will you roll out your mat and just breathe?

 

For personalized help in learning how to bend, visit me at www.talktosaira.com

The End of an Era

Truth Byte #55

 

“Everyone changes, even you.”

 

For a long time, I used to wonder whether people could change.  I would have late-night debates with my friends from university about whether lasting change is possible, or if people just put on a show to win whatever life goal they are grasping for without ever really changing the fundamental fabric of who they are.

 

What I learned last weekend is that everyone changes, even me.

 

And I learned this lesson in the most unexpected place: on the ski hill.

 

But wait a second, let me back up a few years.

 

When I was in fifth grade, my eldest cousin took me and a gaggle of other little cousins up to a ski hill.  For an immigrant child, skiing was about the most “Canadian” we could get (besides drinking beer and eating back bacon, neither of which were culturally sanctioned for me as a nine-year old Muslim girl), and maybe playing hockey, a sport that was way to expensive for a “working-three-jobs-each-to-make- ends-meet” parental budget.

 

So this ski trip was a really big deal in feeling like we belonged by participating in an activity that seemed so far from reach for us.  Looking back on it now, I wonder how much planning that must have taken, and how many corners they must have had to cut to get each of us day passes and ski rentals, not to mention snow pants and matching toques.  None of the parents donned the awkward ski boots, but they cheered us on enthusiastically in their soaked through running shoes and tightly swaddled necks from the bottom of the hill.

 

My cousin was the trail blazer, and he spent time with each of us, helping us learn the basics.

 

I remember that thrill of figuring out how to get my body to turn just so, and how much we laughed as we fell over and over and over.  I remember learning to gently place the t-bar under my bum to avoid bruising as it pulled me slowly up the bunny hill. I remember that exquisite feeling as we loosened our boots and threw off our gloves at the end of the day, and the smell of the smashed up egg and cucumber sandwiches that the parents had kept ready for us in the cooler. I remember the years later where we would tell and re-tell the story of that day, comparing who was the fastest, who was the most fearless, and who would probably never ski again.

 

In sixth grade, we went skiing with my school.

 

I rocked it.

 

And so I was off, taking up the opportunity to practice whenever someone else was paying for it or it was included in some Girl Guides or YMCA Leadership package.  I loved the rush of the speed, and the views from the chairlift, and that lovely feeling of restful fullness in the lodge and hot-tub after it was all over.

 

The last memorable ski trip I had was the Spring before I got married, about a decade ago.  My older cousin (a different one this time) noticed we were coming to the end of an era as a family group, and felt we should mark it in some way.  It was a girl’s trip, so details will have to stay on the hill, but I will say that my worst skiing nightmare came true and I survived it (go ahead, let your imagination go wild here!)

 

And then I didn’t ski again until last weekend.

 

What a disaster.

 

I had a bad feeling about it looming from weeks before, but pushed through anyway and got myself up onto the hill. It was my brother’s birthday and I really wanted us to have this experience together.

 

Half way down my first run, I found myself paralyzed.  Instead of that thrill and sweetness that I used to feel, I felt terror.  Instead of noticing the view from the chairlift, I was worried about how high we were, worried about dismounting, worried about something going wrong. Instead of the excitement for the next run, half way down the hill, I completely froze.

 

Right there, as little kids whizzed passed me on that supposedly easy practice hill, I couldn’t move. I was sweating through my long johns, my heart was pounding, and my brain was racing. It was worse than that feeling I had once when I watched a horror movie as a kid and couldn’t sleep because the shadows were coming alive.  It was the feeling I used to have right before I fainted. It was awful.  It was the opposite of fun.

 

I was stuck.

 

I did not want to faint on that hill.

 

So I had to give myself a silent pep talk, not realizing my brother was capturing the entire ski, stop, self-talk episode on his smartphone.

 

As I tried to soothe the racing heart and the dizzy feeling, I realized I had two choices.  I could either ski down the rest of the way, or I could take off my skis and walk down.  So I made a deal with myself.  I decided that if I skied down the rest of the way, I could spend the rest of the afternoon in the lodge, with no internal pressure to participate in the adrenaline rush for the rest of the afternoon.

 

Just that decision made it possible for me to complete my run.

 

But boy, did I feel like an idiot for a few hours.  As I loosened my boots and the blood rushed back into my calves and feet, I felt like such a failure.

 

So I texted my husband, who was at home watching the kids.

 

And he told me it’s okay, that maybe I have changed.

 

And that’s when it clicked.

 

Everyone changes, even me.

 

I have changed in many ways over the past decade, but I did not expect this.  It kind of came out of nowhere, actually.  I now know that don’t like that risk-taking-high feeling anymore.  Not at all.

 

And that’s okay.

 

That’s not to say I will never try it again, for sure I will.  I just know now that my experience may be different than it used to be.  I can stop trying to re-create the magic of that first day on the slopes all those years ago, or re-enact the camaraderie and game-changing experiences of our final girl’s trip.  I can just be in the new experience, and not expect myself to respond in the same ways I always have, because it’s okay to change.

Have you been noticing your changes? Some of these changes may be pleasant surprises while others may seem more unexpected or unwanted.  As you evolve into a newer and truer version of yourself, you may find there are aspects of you falling away.  I would challenge you this week to take a look at which arenas in your life have been impacted by these changes, and see if there is a change you would like to be more deliberate and plan-ful about. Write me at connect@talktosaira.com if your changes will take a little professional support, and you are ready to take the leap!