Soaking in the Happy

Truth Byte #32

“It’s okay to be happy.”

 

I come from heartbreak.

 

If your parents divorced or you had some family tragedy before you turned 20, you can probably relate.  Most of us who have pain in our childhoods have marinated in the jagged shards of heartbreak.  The happily-ever-after got snatched away by the realties of life, and imperfect partners, and difficult situations, and heartbreak was in the air, but worse, in our veins. 

 

In my family story, a new Prince Charming showed up, and saved the whole family, yet that bitterness of lost love stayed with me most of my life.

 

As I grew, I came to see the pain of lost love was not actually my mother’s story anymore.  She found love again and moved on with her life.  The person who was left pining was me.

 

I pined for my father. 

 

Even years later after we re-connected, that ten-year old girl who waited by the window for him to come home lived on inside me.

 

And so I was always a little suspicious when things got too happy.

 

Today, I am making a different choice.  Today, I realized that it’s okay to not have problems and complaints.  It’s okay for all in my life to be well.  It’s okay to be pain-free, physically and emotionally.

 

Here’s 8 clues which show you that you are getting used to being unhappy:

 

  1. You laugh hard and long on time, and then think: I can’t remember when I have laughed like that before.
  2. Happy/optimistic people annoy you.
  3. You point out other people’s flaws, either to their face, behind their back, or in your own mind.
  4. Happy endings in movies irritate you because you don’t think they are “realistic”.
  5. When people laugh too loud, you judge them.
  6. You choose dramas and meaningful films over romantic or mindless/silly entertainment all the time. No exceptions.
  7. You feel smug and self-important on a regular basis (but would never admit that out loud).
  8. You think happiness is over-rated.

 

(P.S. The more items you picked, the more stuck you are.)

 

I know, it’s tough to admit that you are stuck in a rut of unhappiness.  It’s easier to blame your spouse or your professors or your colleagues or your parents or your kids or your job situation or your health or…..and on and on.  It takes courage to admit that you are just getting used to being unhappy.  I know it’s hard to figure out how to get out of it.

 

I had a client say to me once: “I can’t just think my way out of this feeling.”  And within four sessions, she had actually achieved just that!

 

So what I am trying to say, in a scenic route kind of way, is that you are allowed to be happy.  Actually, you are supposed to be.

 

It’s your birthright. 

 

At times like these (when I am trying to drive home a point, that is) I look to Nature for supporting evidence.  So let’s look at puppies.  They just arrive happy.  For no reason.  Happy.  Unless something bad happens to them or they don’t have their basic needs met, they generally stay that away.

 

Most of us humans come in generally okay.  Even babies who are born with extreme health conditions can recover pretty well and become smiling toddlers.  Where it all goes wrong is when we start drinking in the heartbreak and judgment that is all around us.  Because so many adults for so many generations have not had the space or know-how to be emotionally expressive (unless that emotion is anger or disappointment), the children coming in to families learn that expressing joy (or any other powerful, uncontained emotion) is not really okay.

 

But that is changing.

 

I am watching my friends and peers approach parenting in a whole different way.  They let their children feel their feelings, and they give them tools to navigate those feelings.  They teach them how to express their feelings while remaining socially appropriate. These little boys and girls are saying “let’s take a deep breath” to each other on the playground, and “we hurt Sally’s feelings” before they rush over to apologize.  They are asking for help from caring adults and older children when their feelings overwhelm them, and their joy is so big, so bold, that it magnetizes everyone in the vicinity.

 

My children are part of this cohort.  And I want them to know it’s okay to be happy.

 

It ‘s okay to be happy. 

It’s okay to be happy.

It’s okay to be happy.

 

(How ridiculous that I even have to say that?!)

 

I need other adults to help me role-model this to them, and all the little ones growing up in this new world of frontier-less friendship.  If we can claim our happiness, so can they. And that could actually change our world.  So will you put down your unhappiness today and join me?

 

Grow your tribe and find your happy with us at our next workshop.  Book now while the Summer Slash Sale is still on, only $99 for your seat! More info and tips at www.talktosaira.com

My Two Voices

Truth Byte #31

You are being too hard on yourself. 

 

Judgment is a curious thing.  Very little children don’t judge.  They ask questions (Mommy, why is that man wearing a dress? Daddy, what is that chair with wheels for? Grandma, why doesn’t Maya have a dad?) but until they are taught, they don’t really know what is acceptable and what is unacceptable, what is the “right” answer and what is just plain wrong.

 

Adults and older children teach them that. 

 

Not too long ago in Western history, children were taught that people of certain skin tones were naturally inferior to others.  They learned that “fact”, grew up believing it, and then their actions as adults demonstrated those beliefs.  It was their children and grandchildren who challenged those judgments and their great-grand children who are still advocating for ethnic minorities and people of colour in the West.

 

Not too long ago we believed that it was dangerous to women’s health and the family’s stability to teach women to read.  When I told my seven-year old that little historical tidbit last month, he laughed out loud in disbelief.  “If moms and teachers aren’t allowed to read, who is going to teach the kids and help them with their homework?” he asked, incredulously.  He then told me that there is only one male teacher in his entire elementary school, and he is a substitute.  “Boys and girls both need to know how to read so they can understand life and not be tricked,” he said, with finality.

 

Judgment has a very dark side.  We have been reeling from the intergenerational impact of mistaken judgment.  For decades we have been trying to dismantle the institutional discrimination it supported.

 

So what happens when we turn that judgment inward?

 

Too many of us live our lives with a toxic inner critic as a companion.  Sometimes it feels like we can never get it right, never do it right, never be or have enough. When that happens, know that you are listening to that Voice.

 

I was looking around my home the other day, and it seems no matter where I went, there were things out of place.  I would finish with one part of my house and the other part of the house would be a mess.  My friendly inner critic showed up, never missing a beat, and went on to explain to me how I was a failure, and how if my single mom who worked three jobs could keep a tidy house, why couldn’t I, (an entrepreneur who makes my own hours and has a loving, supportive husband at home) have a presentable home?

 

Within moments of that corrosive inner talk, I was hollering at my young children about how I am not their maid and I am going to donate all their belongings to kids who deserve them if they can’t keep their spaces tidy.  They cleaned up slowly and silently, without making eye contact, and I internally kicked myself.  I should have just put on the "clean up song" like I do every afternoon when I want them to put their things away, and they would have known the drill.  Instead, my own inner judgment seemed to make it okay for me to lash out and act like a ten-year old.

 

We all felt terrible after and I went to bed that night with a migraine.

 

The critic thrives on comparisons, and won’t quit until you have lost it.  Which will give you one more thing to feel bad about.

 

There is always someone that Voice can find who is managing better than me.  Someone who is in a tougher space yet is somehow seems to be coming out roses.  And when She can’t find someone real, She will start making comparisons to caricatures and Hollywood/Bollywood starlets who seem to have it all and not be breaking even the smallest sweat.

 

(Speaking of sweat, when I first started attending Zumba regularly, my inner critic told me I was clearly not doing it right because everyone else was sweating more than me. It’s always something!!)

 

I have tried all kind of strategies to deal with my critic.  And I have found only one that works:

 

Listen to a different voice.

 

Alongside my Critic, there is another voice.

 

This voice is quieter, more loving, and always gives me the benefit of the doubt.  This voice reminds me that everything of this Earth will perish, and there is only one vibrant part of my that will survive after my last rites: my soul.  I like to think of this voice as the voice of my Spirit, that voice that speaks to me through the breeze in the trees and the waves on the sand and the twinkle in the eyes of my children.

 

This voice reminds me that even in my weakest moment, I am strong. 

 

This voice reminds me who’s child I really am, and that my true Mother/Father can never leave me.

 

This voice is much softer than the critical voice, and so it’s often harder for me to hear.  I have to be still to hear this voice, and I have to be willing. But once I notice it, the voice of my Spirit is persistent.  It points out all the things I am doing right, and reminds me that even if I did nothing “right” for the rest of my days, the fact that I am kind and caring is enough.  More than enough.

 

This voice reminds me that whether anyone else knows it or not, I am loveable. 

 

This voice makes it easier for me to breathe.

 

Today, I challenge you to get still, and to be willing.  You have this voice too, (you have probably already heard it once or twice) and it has something to tell you.  I know that other voice, the critical voice, seems more real most of the time, and it’s easy to join in the self-attack wholeheartedly. And yet, that is not making you happy, is it?  Make the switch today, and let me know how you do listening to this new voice.

 

To access this other voice, and be able to listen to it more regularly, it helps to be around others who are on the same path.   Join our tribe by subscribing to my newsletter or attending a workshop. Email me for more information at connect@talktosaira.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ice Cold Contraction

Truth Byte #30

Stay and play, don’t run away.

I was a pretty even-tempered child.  That is, until my feelings got hurt.

Growing up in the 80’s in a large, close-knit extended family that loved to tease, that happened often.  When I felt that lump in my throat, I would quickly change the subject and try to blink back the tears.  I was never very good at putting on a false show, and my face would give it all away, so they always knew I was on the verge of tears at every family event.

But I loved to play with all my cousins and be around my aunts and uncles, so no matter how insistent the jesting, I would stay.  There were others in our group that would simply remove themselves, and over the years, have distanced themselves from the drama and potential hurt of our big fat immigrant family.

Over the past few weeks I have been reflecting upon how I choose to spend my time and with whom, and how layered and complex it can get in a family context.  I come from the type of family where we do complain about one another here and there, but as soon as the bad feelings are out of the mouth, they’re also out of the mind.  We do our best not to hold grudges, and hold each other accountable for the roles that each one of us play.

In a nutshell, we call each other out. 

In a nutshell, our love is strong and deep and unshakable, and yet we are not immune getting sucked in to family drama.

I think this makes us strong.  It also makes for some very tense and awkward moments.  So during these difficult conversations and scenarios I find myself facing as an adult, I remind myself of the ice cube technique that I learned during my birthing class.

The premise is simple: squeeze an ice cube in the palm of your hand for a full minute at three minute intervals.  The point of the exercise is for new moms-to-be (and their partners) to get a simulated version of the intensity of a contraction.

Now, those of us who have actually delivered a baby will laugh and shake our heads at this comparison, but when I was going through the exercise in the last trimester of my first baby, it really was quite difficult and uncomfortable.  Our teacher explained that there were two approaches to dealing with the pain of a contraction: you can either go in to the pain, or you can get away from it.  We all knew how to get away from pain, as this is something we are biologically wired to do and have been practicing all our lives.

But why would we ever choose to go IN to the pain?

And how would we even begin to do this?  It took a few tries for me to get it but when I did, it was like my world was flooded in sunshine after a dark, cold winter.

And so now, in my transpersonal counselling practice, I teach people to go in to their pain.

But’s it’s not physical pain, like the ice cube.  It’s emotional pain.

Which can be just as debilitating. 

Rather than distract themselves with their future goals or wish away their situations through good old-fashioned positive thinking, I challenge my clients to actually face the pain that is keeping them stuck.

I ask them to go in. 

And I promise to never leave them there. 

But if we aren’t willing to actually feel the pain, we can’t really move past it.  And this doesn’t mean you have to be re-traumatized.  There are certain memories that you really don’t need to re-visit.  But the feelings that we carry, deep in the most secret parts of our hearts, those deserve to be acknowledged and released.  What if we actually said to ourselves: “Yes, I feel bad about this thing that happened,” and then rather than explaining to away or spinning it in some way, we just felt that bad feeling for a moment or two?  And then (with the help of a trained professional, if needed) move on?

The really fascinating thing about feelings is that they are like little kids: when you pay attention to them from a caring place, they stop acting out, and if you ignore them, they either get more and more intense, or numb out and shut down.  So what if we all took some time this week to actually feel the cold sting of the ice cube from our own life? What if instead of distracting ourselves, we let ourselves have a good cry or a good vent or even just be willing to feel a bit uncomfortable for a while?

When you are willing to go all the way in, even the most overwhelming emotions can be distilled down to two primary impulses: moving towards (love) or moving away from (fear).

When we were infants, we only had the capacity to move towards or to move away from, to be attracted or to be repelled. So what if you just allowed that uncomfortable feeling to stay awhile and got to the bottom of it? Rather than push the pain away, you may be surprised at how it transforms you.  That’s what my family and I are learning: to stay and play instead of running away.

Even when it’s hard.

Join us in the Fall for an experiential  workshop that will show you how to effectively navigate your emotions and deal with emotional people without getting overwhelmed or numbed out.  Take advantage of our $99 Summer Slash Sale, and invite that person in your life that you know is ready for transformation to come along with you!  More at www.talktosaira.com or visit Dr. Saira’s Facebook page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feeling fat again

Truth Byte #29

Your current situation is the result of a series of small choices.

 

I stepped on the scale the other day, and I had gained three pounds.  I thought back over the past few weeks and realized there have been a lot more restaurant lunches, ice-cream truck treats with the kids, and late-night dinners.  I remembered the afternoon snacks of chips and slurpee that the heat seemed to justify and the lazy laying around on the beach.

My weight gain is a result of a series of small choices.

 

This time it was three pounds.  But I remember the day I woke up about twelve years ago and found myself 85 lbs. overweight.  Now, I know that didn’t just happen overnight, but it sure felt like it.  For years I had been making small, seemingly harmless choices of “extra creamy” ceaser salad or dessert with every dinner or sugar-filled soda on a regular basis or two eggs for breakfast instead of one, and suddenly, before I knew it, my body was extremely overweight.

 

By medical definitions and acknowledging the plus size stores I had to shop in, I was actually considered obese.

 

And I really was shocked.

 

I didn’t know how it happened.  But at some point, I had to get honest about what I saw in the mirror.  Hitting size 18 was my wake-up call, and my family and friends supported me in admitting my issue and getting the help I needed to get back on the road to health.

 

I stopped pretending I truly believed that “big is beautiful”, and started looking for role-models who weren’t pretending that 85 lbs of extra fat in and around my vital organs was going to help me be happier or live longer.

 

Since then, I have been on and off diets, tried all kinds of exercise regimes, and even bordered on anorexia.  The fight to keep the weight off has been an ongoing battle.  And I call it a battle on purpose.  I let my guard down for a week or two, and suddenly I am up three pounds.

 

So I have to be vigilant. 

 

Where others can enjoy a yummy treat or two, I have to think a thousand times about if it’s worth it.  While others throw on shorts and a tank top to hang out at the beach, all I see is my cellulite bumps.  While other kids and their parents laugh and run and play, I have to pace myself because I am still building my stamina.

 

It is a battle, and one that I fight every day.

 

Why am I telling you this?  It’s definitely not so you can feel sorry for me.  I would hate that.  It’s because I want to be honest about choices.

 

It’s not easy to make good choices on a regular basis and for the rest of your life. 

 

Whether those choices are about diet and exercise, the quality of your relationships, or the kind of work you want to be earning a living at, making choices that are good for you on a regular basis is hard.  I want you to know that I get that.

 

I live that.

 

On the other hand, it has also made me hyper-accountable.  If I have gained three pounds, it’s no one else’s fault.  It was my choice to miss my workout or eat that brownie or take the car instead of walking.

 

It was my choice.

 

Today, I challenge you get honest with yourself about the choices you are making.  I know it can feel sometimes that life is happening to you, rather than for you.  I know it can feel like you are stuck at some yucky point in your life and it’s other people’s fault that you are there.  I could have easily blamed a health condition, a pregnancy, a busy schedule or a hundred other things for my fatness.  And for years I did.

 

And then one day I had to just say “enough”.

 

What is it that you are tired of putting up with in your life? Is it time to make different choices about your health, your career, or your relationships? How regular are you with your spiritual practices? Are you making the small, deliberate choices you know you will need to make to have the life that you want? Or are you waiting around for something to change without actually eating vegetables and going for a walk?

 

Today could be the day that you choose to make one small and meaningful choice to have the life you dream of having.  Make another choice tomorrow and another the next day.  And soon those choices will add up.  Instead of 3 extra pounds, you may have lots of extra and unexpected happiness.

 

It’s your life, and no one else can live it for you.

 

Join us for a transformational workshop where you can make important choices in a supportive environment. Summer sale price is $99, so book this week to get you and your friends the best deal! http://talktosaira.com/our-events for tickets or check out my Facebook page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Am I cut off?

Truth Byte #28

 

If you’re not supported, you are the one to blame. 

 

People tell me they are lonely.  That they have no friends.  That no one supports them.  And maybe to a point, this is true.  But let’s get honest: if you have no one to turn to, it’s probably your own fault.

 

I know that sounds harsh, especially when you are used to me being kind and loving and hopeful.  But today I have decided it’s time to tell it like it is and stop coddling you.  Because you are a grown up and you can handle it.  And you deserve to have a cheering section, even when you are struggling.

 

If you find yourself alone, cut out from life’s big party, chances are you created that scenario with your own beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours.

 

Let me give you an example.  There is someone in my life who is very lovable.  Funny, thoughtful, and a great friend when you are on his good side. Then, all of a sudden, he will get upset about something (sometimes something obvious, and sometimes something invisible), and suddenly he just disappears.  Sometimes he disappears for years.

 

I wonder what happens to him during this disappearing act. 

 

I imagine he stews about how he was wronged and judges and blames the person who upset him for his unhappiness.  I imagine he makes new friends, new connections, and demonstrates his love and care with them.  I imagine at some point one of them pisses him off and the whole thing begins again.  I imagine he must be very lonely and irritated during these cycles.

 

See, from his perspective it must look like people are always letting him down.

 

But from my perspective it looks like he is throwing a tantrum and not letting people have flaws and be human.  He is not really comfortable with adult relationships where people evolve and grow, sometimes in different directions.

 

Now, I am not talking about situations where there is blatant violence and abuse.  It is actually healthy to remove yourself from those people who cannot handle their feelings maturely and put you in harm's way. With many of these people, it is likely you will never see them again, unless they get the help they need.

 

I am talking instead about hurt feelings and misunderstandings.  If we keep cutting off people who care about us, we end up very isolated.

 

If no one wants to hang out with you, you have to ask yourself “why?”

 

Are you the one who is always complaining about the latest problem, pulling the conversation like a blanket around yourself while your friend freezes out in the cold? Is it always about you and what you need, or are you giving something to others too? When you give, is it because you expect that same treatment back (also called score-keeping) or is it purely to demonstrate your care and affection?

 

One-sided relationships eventually become exhausting, and whether you are the one who has pulled away or others have stopped engaging with you, chances are there is something you can do to change it.  Instead of thinking of your friendships as just about filling your tank, maybe you can think about what you could bring instead of what just you can get.

 

On the other hand, sometimes we just outgrow people.

 

And when that happens, you can gently let those people go, without drama, without heartache, without a big fight.  Just gently and kindly let them go (even if they are the ones “cutting you off”) and know that as long as you keep smiling that smile and keep shining that light, the right people will find you and start to fill the vacancies in your tribe.  And until they find you, enjoy getting to know the new you that is emerging!

 

As of today, you are not allowed to complain about loneliness.  Because there are people who are dying to see you and spend time with you.

 

Start with them, and the rest will show up.

 

Want to learn how to let people in? Want to deepen the relationships you already have? Take advantage of the summer slash sale: $99 + GST for the Relationships Workshop in Vancouver on Oct 1, 2016.  In a single day, people go from focusing only on their problems to having a roadmap for their next steps.  You will be glad you took the plunge. Register now at http://www.talktosaira.com/our-events