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As I sat on my $98/night bed in Kamloops, half working on a course, half tuning in to the Lance Armstrong interview on Oprah TV, Oprah grabbed my attention with the question “Did you feel in any way that you were cheating”.  “Did I or do I?” Lance answered…. Interesting clarification….  “Did you?”.  Lance’s answer first surprised me, then upset me, and finally, forced me to consider my own point of view.

“I went and looked up the definition of cheat,” he added a moment later. “And the definition is to gain an advantage on a rival or foe. I didn’t view it that way. I viewed it as a level playing field.”

So, is it cheating if we all do it?  And what are we really upset about?  The cheating or that he lied to us?

At the end of the day, many people are equally offended if somebody cheats or lies, but what is it about Lance in particular that has unnerved us?  Is it that we trusted him for some reason, or is it that we truly feel that doping is wrong?  In my opinion, the public’s reaction has far surpassed the disappointment of a cheat, but has morphed into something more personal, something that for some reason requires Armstrong to deliver an apology that we believe, in a way that we individually think is right, with proof that he has, somehow, changed, and a punishment that will last long into his life.  For some reason, we require more than is required in most families, workplaces, and churches.  So how did it get to a point that he has hurt us this way? And what can we do about it?

I started to think about times in my life where I had been caught in a lie, or maybe didn’t play as fair as I could.  I know the magnitude is much lower, but maybe some of the conditions were the same – why did I do it?  I knew it was wrong, it didn’t really feel good, but I found a way to justify it in the moment.  I think that the common element was that I felt I had to do it to survive the moment.  Right or wrong, something was at stake… Now I can’t speak for Armstrong, but I can tell you that the world of sport can sometimes feel like everything is at stake. In fact, this is the intention of the organizations that run sport – they need it to feel this important to make money and build the brand.  I remember moments where I felt like I would do anything it took to win, to be successful.  It was the only way I would be able to pay rent, or buy food.  I was lucky in that my world did not include things like EPO, doping, millions of dollars and a reputation that was on the line.  My world was relatively small, and relatively protected.  But what if it wasn’t?  What if I had been approached by somebody that I trusted, and what if it was as common in my world as taking a vitamin C?

I’m in no way saying that I would have taken this path – on the contrary, I grew up in a household that vehemently defended clean sport, and a mother that won a medal clean in an environment that provided that opportunity for her if she was interested… but I can see the conditions that may have led Armstrong (and most others in his sport) to win at all costs, including his own health and potential public fallout.

So in an effort not to defend Lance, but to perhaps understand him, I again ask, why is it so personal?  Do we recognize the dark side of ourselves in him?  Does it scare us that even a hero like Armstrong could fall to temptations and greed – because where does that leave us?

I’m in no way saying that the penalties and fallout are not appropriate – in life there is cause and effect.  Instead I’m hoping that we, as a society, can use this as an opportunity to learn about ourselves and what we do to win, our view of sport and excellence, and how we react and respond when somebody fails – do we turn our backs or do we help them to rebuild?  Because this will be our legacy.

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Well here we are – it’s 2013 and I although I haven’t written on my blog in over a year, it seems that somehow the amazing world wide web has continued to bring people to my site.  As I received my blog stats via email, I started to reflect on the past – when I started this blog, why I started it, and why I stopped writing.

I think it was a mix of things… I got busy (coaching)… I got very busy (moved, got engaged)… and then I got even more busy (work, travel, wedding planning).  In fact, being busy is the exact reason I have for stopping most things in my life that I probably should keep doing.  I’m not saying that writing a blog should continue forever,  but there was something very important and perhaps cathartic in expressing my thoughts, feelings and ideas.  Maybe it was simply creating something that I could reread, or getting thoughts out that I had pushed away in the process of being productive.  but I think that more likely, it was taking a moment for myself- to leave the outside world for just a moment, and create a little world by myself in a small cafe.

I’ve tried to fill the gap with things like yoga, running and lazy days watching Madmen, but in some ways these relaxing endeavors have taken a life of their own and have become sweat sessions at Bikrams Yoga, half marathon training, and a little too much online shopping to find outfits like Betty and Joan.  It’s funny how “productive” these little moments for myself have become!

So here find myself in another cafe being “unproductive”… and it feels awesome!  As I sip on my americano, and watch the misty rain drizzle on the window, I can’t help but reflect on this past year of successes, and announcements, triumphs and tears.  One thing is very clear- it was an awesome year!  It wasn’t perfect, but I grew and I changed.  And to be honest, it’s taken me till Jan.1, 2013 to really appreciate and think about that.

My resolution next year is to take all of my goals and ambitions and plans and relationships, and find ways to create moments to reflect on and appreciate what is happening with them right then.  I’m not sure exactly how this will change any of the outcomes, and maybe it won’t… but I do think that in the moments of craziness and busyness, if I deliberately take time to reflect, I will be reminded to stop, breathe, and notice that there is goodness and beauty in all of it.  The wins and the losses.  Because at the end of the day, it’s all about learning and growing.

 

I’ll leave you with an amazing little 5 step program! A daily resolution of sorts 🙂

 

The Five Reiki Principles

BY DR.MIKAO USUI

 

I – Just for today, I will not be angry.

Anger at others or oneself or at the whole world, creates serious blockages in one’s energy. It is the most complex inner enemy.

Letting go of anger, brings Peace into the Mind.

 

II – Just for today, I will not worry.

 

While anger deals with past and present events, worry deals with future ones. Although worry is not always a negative phenomena, endless worries may fill one’s head, and each one bores a small hole in one’s body and soul.

Letting go of worry, brings healing into the Body.

 

III – Just for today, I will be grateful.

Be grateful from your hart inward. Inner intention is the important element in this principle. Simple things as thanks, forgiveness, smile, good words, gratitude can improve others life and make them happy.

Being thankful brings Joy into the Spirit.

 

IV – Just for today, I will do my work honestly.

Support yourself and your family respectably, without harming others. Earn a respectable living, live a life of honor.

Working Honestly brings Abundance into the Soul.

 

V- Just for today, I will be kind to every living thing.

Honor your parents, honor your teachers, honor your elders.

Being Kind brings Love into the Will.

 

Happy New Years and all the best in 2013 – something tells me that this year is going to be a special one…Unknown-1

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From bad to worse..

8-1

That was the score of the Canucks loss last night.  The players looked visibly shocked, the coaches had no idea what to do and a city bustling with Olympic-like pride and gusto was immediately humbled.

Predictions were generous before the game – Canucks were getting better every game, every series.  Luongo seemed poised and confident, and our record was improving – 7 games in the first round, 6 games in the second, 5 in the 4th… and what was left?  A Four Game sweep of course!

So, if not a sweep, now what?

As an athlete and now a coach, I’ve often gotten caught up in the energy of “perfection”.  It’s what makes athletes, coaches, GM’s and franchises excellent – seeking perfect performances and doing every little thing that it takes to accomplish that.  And here’s where it gets tricky… we can train with perfection in mind but the second we try to play games perfectly is where things go wrong, because it’s very rare for a game to go exactly as we planned or envisioned…  We then miss opportunities as we search for the perfect play; we get caught up in our own mistakes, failing to move on from them; and when things don’t go well  we start to play with fear and caution.

There are a couple of ways to analyse why it happens that way- For all of those “The Secret” believers out there- Law of Attraction is the source of this. What we think about we attract.  Fear breeds the manifestation of fear.  Worrying about making mistakes breeds mistakes etc. etc. etc.  Our minds do not know the difference between what we want and what we don’t want.  It just produces what is on our mind.

And for those scientists out there, it’s pretty simple what happens.  Fear and nerves cause blood flow to pool in the stomach, thereby starving the extremities (aka arms and legs!), and so movement is not only restricted but our reflexes are much slower.  Looking back on last night’s game, does that sound familiar?

This is the “perfectionism trap”.  Perfectionism is great when things are, well, perfect.  But it quickly breaks down when things go wrong as it seems that there is no way out as we have already failed to be perfect.

So what now for the Canucks?  How do you regroup and come back from that performance?  I can’t say that I have the exact answer, but I think that the worse thing that they could do is overanalyze their performance.  They could go into strategy and technical aspects of the game and get caught up in what to change, but the truth is that the change that needs to happen is within them already.  They need to be okay with not being perfect, and have a little humour about the lesson they were given.  Trying to avenge a loss, or prove something to their fans will give them just that – a game spent trying and proving.  it’s uninspiring to watch, and even more uninspiring to play that way.

But I imagine they already know this.  They play week after week, in do or die situations.  They experience the best and worst of themselves on that ice day after day and so they are used to this and get coached through it.  They know how it goes.  But what about everyone else?

I’ve always said that the reason I was addicted to volleyball was because I could go through years of growth in 1 hour on the court. There is a start, middle and end to the game; you see what kind of teammate/partner you are; you see how you think and react when things are close- do you make the right play, do you get scared, do you blame your coach, yourself or teammate?  And then you finish the game, debrief, need to forget it and move on, while implementing new better ways to be in the future.  If this is not life, I don’t know what is!

But normally we don’t get to do the whole thing in such a short time.  Usually it gets stretched out over weeks, months, years and it feels neverending.  A bad play in hockey may see your team at a disadvantage for 5 minutes, but in life a bad decision could cost us years of discomfort, which really wears people down.  And so it gets really tough to forget the mistake and move on… to move past it with the information we learned and make different choices.  In fact, often there is so much time between the action and the result that we often lose sight of what caused what.  And then we (accidently) keep making the same mistake over and over and wonder why we ended up in the same place again.

It happens with work, money, dating, and family.  I’ve seen numerous friends find themselves in relationships with THAT guy that they tried to avoid.  Or people that keep ending up working with terrible bosses or who are perpetually broke no matter what kind of money they are making.

The question is, do we need a referee and a coach around or can we figure it out on our own?  When we make a mistake, do we know ourselves well enough to call the penalty, put ourselves in the box for 5 minutes, and then get back on the ice and play differently?  Or do we keep trying to play “through it” and force our game plan no matter what the other team is doing?  And though the Canucks got to walk away after 2 1/2 hours of playing with an 8-1 loss, what does that transfer into in real life?  Losing 8 things in real life is a much bigger deal – it may include a relationship, a house, a job, confidence, trust, time.

For me, I get stuck trying to be a perfectionist for sure.  Because it has served me in the past.  It has made me great at things and yet there is no doubt that there is a cap that it places on my life and so it’s important to look at my current situation and have a sense of whether I’m learning and changing myself or if I’m just trying to change the game.  Because 5 minutes in the penalty box may just be the perfect little time out – I mean, who knows what can happen while you’re in there… !

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Anybody that knows me well knows that I have always been a huge believer that we create our lives exactly as they are right now.  And I don’t mean we voodoo control life… just that life presents itself the way we we intend it to or expect it to- it’s why people that believe everybody is out to get them tend to keep finding themselves in situations where they must defend and protect themselves, and where I can walk around downtown Guadalajara, MX at night completely unscathed. And trust me, I have no idea why or how it works this way!

But as a believer in this philosophy, what happens when things work out differently than I want or expect?  What happens when something comes up that I feel I didn’t intend and maybe don’t even want?  This is where I get stuck because if I was completely in control, then it wouldn’t be this way, right?

Or maybe sometimes shit just happens.

I came across a quote from one of my favorite writers and philosophers, Kahlil Gibran:

“Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens.”

The thing is that sometimes things just feel scary, or difficult or upsetting.  My instinct is that it’s not okay to feel these things and it means something is wrong.  I usually just push those feelings down as far as I can muster, and try to “get over it”.  Smile and keep moving forward. But does this actually allow me to explore myself and my world to it’s full capacity or do I cut off some self expression when I do that?  A year ago I would have read the quote above and thought…”k, i’m doing it all right, just smile and pretend all is okay until it feels okay”.  And now, for some reason that doesn’t seem sufficient to authentic happiness and growth.

I do think it’s important to see ourselves, others, and the world in a positive, powerful light and there is always the opportunity to do that in any situation.  That is the TRUTH in life, and this is who I know myself to be deep down at my core. But there is something about the full experience of being human which includes the spectrum of emotion- joy, sorrow, love, patience, anger, fear.  And it’s good – ALL of it is good!  But it’s the thought and action after that determine who we are in this world.  After our full experience of being human, do we stand for who we truly know ourselves to be regardless of the situation we are in or our feelings we have?  For me, I’m starting to think that really is what creating my life means….

Something tells me that the awesome kid in the video below truly LOVES her life!  And her life probably includes a few tears 🙂

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qR3rK0kZFkg

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As I slowly opened my eyes, feet dangling beside the fireplace and spooned up next to my cat I looked out the window in a dazed confusion.  It’s sort of light outside… is it morning, evening, raining?  Why do I feel so tired? Am I really napping?!

I could blame it on Vegas, and most people would understand that – or on how I just recently wrapped my 8 month season of coaching.  Maybe it is the high of winning and the inevitable release that follows.  Or it could be the training… yep I’ve been doing more than usual…

But I know the truth.  I could notice how my circumstances might affect me, but I don’t believe that energy is a limited resource.  Like the sleeplessness and lack of hunger that new love joyfully creates, energy comes from a fire within – a purpose.  And while I have achieved many goals this year, I feel like I’ve been evading making some decisions with intention.

The thing is that my life is amazing.  Truly it is.  Every single day this year I loved waking up, going to work and I loved being in the gym.  I couldn’t ask for a better roommate and my family is one in a million.  My relationship has changed and grown, giving me a chance to discover pieces of who I am and what I am made of.

And the thing that I’ve been struggling with, that I feel has sapped my energy, can be slotted into one simple question “What do you want to do”?

And I guess I am stumped by this question most because I feel like I have figured out a lot of important stuff this year –

I know who I want to be

  • somebody who is my word
  • who believes that anything is possible for anybody
  • wildly creative
  • committed to the health and wellbeing of myself and everyone around me
  • somebody who inspires others to live their dream

I also know what I want to create in my future:

  • A healthy body and mind
  • Success in beach volleyball
  • A job that I love and that allows me to use all of my talents
  • An amazing relationship that is exciting, challenging, unique and creative
  • A beautiful and blissfully happy family that contributes to making the world better

What I am missing is the details of this.  How do I do this? How much money do I want?  Where do I want to live?  Who do I want to live with? How will I be spending my days?

My friend just started writing a blog, and he truly inspired me to consider declaring what I want and letting the universe take it’s course.  The thing is that I’m not exactly sure how to figure out how to get to what I want.  I seem to get many amazing and unexpected opportunities, and it feels so easy that I wonder if I am letting life happen to me or if I am the driver. I know my starting point, I know my ending point, but it’s the stuff in between that I get confused about.  Do I look 10 years down the road and choose a job that gives me that future, or do I do what I love right now, and trust that will take me exactly where I need to go?  This isn’t a hypothetical question, by the way… I’m looking for insights and ideas, so please share!!

At the end of the day, the more I think about this stuff, the more I know in my gut that there is nothing to figure out.  Trying to figure life out is causing me to feel like a different person than I am.  I feel like this process has taken the spark out of me and I’ve been dragging my feet, rather than reacting to life’s unexpected gifts and ideas.  So in knowing this, and also having to make some decisions – what is the balance?  How do I decide what is right, and an even bigger question would be… is there such a thing as right?

And maybe, just maybe this has nothing to do with making a decision or figuring out some far out purpose.  Perhaps my life will just keep giving me what I need to learn something about myself that I haven’t discovered. And right now it feels like an enigma but as soon as I learn, it will all make sense.  What I have noticed, above all, is that whatever decision I have made in the past few years has always ended up being about self discovery.  And maybe that’s the whole point… more to come as I figure this one out 😉

I read a few quotes about decision that resonated with me and I’m going to post them- feel free to add any comments or email me about your thoughts!

When you have to make a choice and don’t make it, that is in itself a choice.  ~William James

A peacefulness follows any decision, even the wrong one.  ~Rita Mae Brown

It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.  ~Roy Disney

You’ve got a lot of choices.  If getting out of bed in the morning is a chore and you’re not smiling on a regular basis, try another choice.  ~Steven D. Woodhull

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The thing about love is that we use one word to describe a million different feelings, a gamut of experiences, a choice, a goal, and a way of being.  We love ourselves, we love our friends, we love a joke, we are in love with our partner, and we love our hair…  It’s an action and a verb.  It’s permanent and it’s passing. It means a lot and it can mean a little.

And we wonder why we are confused about love.  Why when one person says that they love you, it means something different than when you do…

I’m one of those people that “love” love.  I feel like it’s the answer to the age-old question “what are we here for?”  I think that people find purpose in caring deeply about our planet, and there’s something about feeling so strongly for another human being that we risk being heartbroken.

And as I’m sitting here days before Valentines Day, where love is certainly in the air, I wonder what love truly means to me and how my perception of love has changed and developed through the years.  I mean, it has changed, hasn’t it?

I remember the first time I fell in love.  I was 19, and it was my first boyfriend in university.  I remember this sort of passionate, impatience to how I felt- we literally spent hours, days, and then weeks solid together.  I experienced my first fight, first makeup, first intimate moment, first “I love you”, first betrayal and first heartbreak.  I got it all in that relationship.  And I quickly after met the guy that would be my longest-term relationship so far.  4 years that finally ended in a bittersweet realization that we had outgrown each other.  Tears flowed on and off for months and I literally felt like I might not make it.  I felt physical pain, I questioned my decision, regretted it, then accepted it.  And he soon found somebody new, and 6 months later when he told me he was getting married, I relived it all once more.

I remember thinking “I will never feel like this again”, and meaning it.  I remember the moment- crystal clear, that I decided to never get hurt like that again and I haven’t.  I’ve played my game defensively since then.  Always careless at first in my excitement, “forgetting” the lesson I learned, and then when I noticed what was happening, I would  pull back just as fiercely.  The guys I have stayed with are the ones that were willing to deal with the dichotomy, and that would endlessly forgive my ambivalence.  Those guys, though unbelievable people, I’ve realized aren’t actually the right ones for me.

So now with that awareness has to come change.  If there isn’t change then it means I am operating with the same mindframe as a hurt 23 year old…

The coach I work with uses a quote “what’s in the way is the way” and I think it applies here.  The way to truly be in love is to put ourselves in a position to truly be hurt. For people that have had similar situations to me – every instinct will have us do what we’ve always done, and so it’s important to notice our instincts and feelings, but honour our commitment to changing.

So upon reflection about what love means to me and to answer my initial question – yes, it has changed.  For me, love used to be a feeling that I had.  I needed some way to describe the warmth, connection, and vulnerability that I felt.  Now, it’s changed a little.  It still describes that feeling but unlike a passing emotion, love for me is a choice to keep doing actions that cause me to feel love.  It means choosing to treat my partner with respect even when I’m frustrated, it means making sure people are taken care of and it means deciding not to pull back when I start to feel like I may get hurt.  And it’s the only way, in my opinion, for love to last a lifetime.  I let anger pass, sadness floats away, but love is what I’m committed to keeping.

So this Valentine’s Day I am going to remember how far I’ve come from the 23 year old who decided to be tough.  And maybe after the cinnamon hearts and chocolate truffles and sappy love songs, we can all take a moment to reflect about what love actually means to us and what we want our experience of it to be.  And then do it – put in into action… because at the end of the day, doesn’t Valentine’s Day always end with a little action anyways?  😉

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I remember being 8 years old, sitting in front of the tv completely fixated on and enamoured with She-Ra: Princess of Power.  I’m not sure if it was her beauty, her strength, or the idea that she could totally take care of herself, but she was special… my superhero.

For those that don’t remember, She-Ra is the alter ego of Princess Adora and the twin sister of He-Man. She was abducted as a baby and grew up as Adora… a seemingly normal girl (not unlike myself of course…!).  When she discovers her power and transforms into She-Ra her destiny is uncovered and this normal girl becomes “The Most Powerful Woman in the Universe”.

But She-Ra was more than just a warrior.  She was nurturing in nature (as opposed to her brother’s more aggressively-based powers), was empathic,  understanding and was able to communication with animals.

Not a bad role model to have, right?

I don’t think that I’ve thought about She-Ra since I was 12 or so.  Today I walked by a Lululemon bag that said “Unwrap your Super Powers” and of course she came to mind.  Which led me to the question: what happened when I started growing up that I forgot that I once had this character that I dreamt about being and perhaps even truly believed in at some level?  Did I replace it with something else or did I just stop imagining?

I’m not sure what the answer is, but something tells me that it’s a combination of both.  I have a feeling we are encouraged to get “realistic”.   Do we stop believing in the magic of transformation and do we cease to see our own unlimited possibilities? Maybe we start to succumb to the societal assumption that we can only hope for that which our parents had, only experience 50% of our marriages being successful and grind our way through our 30’s,40’s and 50’s in hope of security only to realize that we forgot to truly live life along the way.

And while I had a relatively awesome childhood I still struggle to see past some of my own limiting beliefs about myself. I notice that I sometimes buckle to my own insecurities and the more I do it, the more normal it becomes.  Many of the people around me do the same thing and  it becomes so engrained in who I become that I stop seeing that it is not true, it’s just the reality that I’ve surrounded myself with.

See, the thing about She-Ra was that I let her into a place in my imagination that defied my own reality.  And I think I knew deep down that I didn’t have the magic that would transform Spirit into Swift Wind (a talking winged unicorn), but it opened up a part of my mind to start believing in things outside of my own experience, circumstances and existence.

One of the most unusual and creative sport psych tools I have ever heard about was with the sliding team prior to the 2010 Olympics.  They individually met with a Shaman who helped them connect with their own spirit animals.  John Montgomery, skeleton Gold Medallist had a turtle.  With the symbol placed on his helmet, he visualized the turtle sliding with him down the track- smoothly, effortlessly and quickly…

I think there is something about stepping outside of what we consider our own limits, our own bodies and our own minds.  In times where our inner excellence is tested, a fear is being realized or a limit is being set on us, what if we connect to our own inner superhero?  Whether it is one that already exists that possesses all of the qualities that we yearn to have, or perhaps one that we create on our own, why not step into their world, even just for a moment, and see if solutions appear and goals are met.  AND at the same time creatively play in this world!

So in my life, She-Ra has been rediscovered.  I see her differently now than I used to.  Where I used to take her battles at face value, I now see how similar they are to my own.  I see how she never uses her magic sword on the offensive, but only to defend herself if need be.  She never hurts human beings, and she always finds time to connect with family and animals.  Sure, she is beautiful, but it’s no longer about her long blonde hair- her beauty is more about how she finally knows who she is.  And lastly, where I used to notice what she was doing, I now notice how she was doing it.  There is an art to the way she moves and the way she handles a challenge.

So what is my Super Power?  Today it is unleashed imagination!  I’m not sure that Swift Wind will show up on my doorstep, but the fact that I don’t know what will show up means I’m on the right path…

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