Let's continue the conversation from our episode What No One Tells You About Finding Your Inner Glow. I'm Nancy DelSanto, your podcast host, and I'd like to talk about something I found to be incredibly helpful early on during my own experience of designing my second half. I really think you’ll see amazing benefits too and the sooner you start, the better off you’ll be. By doing this one thing I had a startling revelation that has really helped me and I’m hoping you’ll have a similar revelation. I can’t wait to share it with you.
Here are some of the inspiring words spoken by Katresha from The Pearl Laguna in that episode.
“If you look inside of yourself and you see the highest expression of you, of who you are on this earth at this very moment. You see yourself and you see how good you are. You see the kindness. You see the compassion and you see all the love that you give. But you also need to be open to feel love so that you can receive love. To give and give and give is not a flowing, beautiful energy either. We need to give, receive, and be open to receive wonder in our life.”
The truth is that most of us are hardest on ourselves. Instead of seeing the highest expression and goodness, we focus on our faults. I think we’re downright mean to ourselves. We wouldn’t talk to a friend or a child the way we reprimand ourselves.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to do better in your life but I think one of the most important things we can do for our own inner wisdom as we design our second half is to be kinder and gentler in the way we look at some of the things that we’ve said or done or failed to do.
We have to be compassionate to our innermost being. We need to love that part of ourselves we find hard to love. We will never feel centered or balanced if we aren’t kind to ourselves. Inner peace will continue to elude us and we won’t be able to truly love others if we don’t love that deepest part of ourselves.
I would say that being kinder to yourself is the first step if you want to open your heart to wonder. It’s very simple but like so many simple things, it’s not easy. It requires that we notice when we’re not being gentle with ourselves and look at the situation in a different way.
We have to say what we would say to a good friend. Think about it, if you’re counseling a good friend, you believe everything you tell them and you feel great love and compassion. It’s time to be a good friend to ourselves. And that takes me to the next surprisingly simple step to opening your heart to wonder.
I started yoga when I moved to the beach. One of my friends, a physician, recommended that all of us starting doing yoga to add to our flexibility and strength without injury. I took a few classes and soon learned that there are many different types of yoga and each teacher has a different style.
Of course I felt awkward at first but I hung in there and learned how to do the poses. What really won me over to this form of exercise was the idea of setting an intention for each class. I had never heard of that before. I never thought to set an intention during any kind of exercise. What an easy way to connect my thoughts and my body.
The intention I found myself returning to over and over again was to work on my balance. Balance is so very important. Without balance we’re going to fall down and hurt ourselves. In yoga, almost every pose requires balance so you’re always working on it in some way. I’m a little embarrassed to say that I often lose my balance when I’m doing poses with both feet on the ground. Those one legged postures are especially challenging to me. Some days balance comes more easily and on other days my body doesn’t want to cooperate at all.
A funny think happens when you’re struggling with a yoga pose. You’re totally present in the moment as your body shakes and quakes. As you are trying to stay upright on one leg and your ankle is working so hard to hold you up, all kinds of muscles are being put to work. In that moment, you’re really connected to what is going on in your body. Your mind isn’t thinking about anything else. It’s aligned with your body.
Sometimes, in those moments when your mind and body are working so hard together, you experience some remarkable, intuitive thoughts that help break through or dislodge something in you. Thoughts that help you get out of your own way. In that time of truly aligning your mind and body sometimes you shake loose something that had you stuck. It’s almost like working out a kink in your neck or shoulders.
It was like that for me one day. I was desperately trying to stay balanced on one leg when I realized my problems balancing in yoga were really a metaphor for my entire life. The thought just screamed at me. I am a person who struggles with finding balance in all things.
It seems odd to say it now but until that moment, I had never really thought about balance, at least not in the same way. When you’ve been doing some things the same way for so many years, it’s really hard to change but that’s exactly what designing your second half with intention should incite you to do. For me, finding more balance is a huge gift I can give myself. Not surprisingly, I think balance is connected with loving myself more.
The idea of all or nothing is more natural for me and it has gotten me in trouble. Case in point—either I’m on a diet or I’m not. Deep down, I know that’s really not healthy for me. If I aimed for a middle ground, I would be kinder to myself and healthier too.
Aligning my mind with my body allowed me to be very present in that moment of break-through. If my mind was thinking about what I had to do that day, I never would have had this revelation. If my mind was replaying something that happened the day before, I never would have thought of balance in this way. I wasn’t thinking about something else while I wobbled on one leg. I was completely absorbed with the task at hand—to stay upright. Somehow this dislodged something much deeper within me. I came away with an ah-ha moment.
Mindfulness is a term that’s tossed around. It means paying attention to sights, sounds, tastes and feelings in the present moment without judging any of your thoughts. When your mind wanders off, you’re supposed to just refocus on the present moment.
You can really do this anywhere and at any time. I love taking walks along the beach and staying very present. It’s almost like the colors pop and sounds become so distinctive. I can almost taste the salt air. The breeze against my skin seems more intense. The sand between my toes feels granular. If it’s sunny, the heat may almost penetrate into my skin. Breathing it all in is like meditation.
Walking is accessible for almost everyone and it can be done in a very mindful way but yoga, tai chi and dance therapy have been called out in medical journals for the tremendous health benefits they provide by connecting the mind and body. People who have physical injuries see improvement in their condition and people with mental health challenges find these therapies beneficial too.
When you’re mindful and focused on the present moment, you’re aware of your breathing. You can feel the energy inside your body and all around you. The feeling is expansive and life giving. If you set an intention of opening your heart to kindness, compassion, and gratefulness, and then focus on your breathing, that expansive feeling will flow through you.
If you’re going to be in the present moment, you have to stop thinking about problems. You have to not engage in the dialog going on in your head or the voices inside you. Instead, you have to really see the things immediately in front of you. Hear the sounds without judgement. Be so keenly aware that you can taste the air you breath. Feel the warmth or cold, the wet or dry of where you are right in that moment. Feel the expansiveness of your breath and the depletion as you exhale completely.
Before I started yoga, I walked a lot for exercise but I didn’t have a mind-body connection. There was nothing immersive about it. My feet were walking while my mind focused on other stuff. I thought about my to-do list or I worried about problems or maybe I was projecting some future event. I was really walking to get my steps in without taking advantage of any of the mental benefits of being mindful and present in the moment.
Walking was like a restless night of sleep. I might see the beauty of nature for a moment but then my thoughts were off to other things. I let my mind wander. I would replay an event that had already happened. It was kinda like watching re-runs of a TV show you know so well. You know the script and it repeats. You think about what you could have said or done differently. You feel mixed emotions about the past. And you skip out on the present moment.
I think that’s what is so special about yoga. It’s hard to skip out of the present moment when you are working so hard to hold a pose or to flow through one posture to another. You become absorbed in what you are doing in your mind and body.
Being present in the moment is a surprisingly simple step in opening your heart to wonder. Now I’d like to invite you to try something with me. Katresha said we need to be open to receive the wonder in our lives. Think for a moment…what did it feel like the last time you had that feeling of wonder?
The dictionary defines it as a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable. What was happening the last time you felt that way? What sparked that feeling? Was it the sound of a young child’s laughter—a child you love and delight in? Was it the playfulness of a pet that was so excited to see you? Or a spectacular sunset?
Just picturing these things in my mind conjures up that mesmerizing, happy state of wonder. It’s right there inside of us. It’s right there on our path if we pay attention. And it’s an expansive, positive energy we need in our lives every day. It’s the kind of energy that gives each of us a wonderful glow.
Haven’t we all spent years disconnected? Isn’t it time to be more intentional in what we are doing? Isn’t it time to open ourselves up to the wonder in our lives? Isn’t it time to be kinder and gentler with ourselves?
I believe it all starts with being more mindful. I challenge you to start right now, today. Connect your mind and body. Be truly present to what you see, hear, taste, and feel and keep bringing your wandering mind back. I feel quite confident that if you’re willing to travel with more mindfulness and with more intention, the road will rise up to meet you and you will have a wonderful journey designing your second half.