In the never ending quest to reach that ultimate pinnacle of what I feel is my utmost best health and fitness, I’ve tried many different foods and workouts. As with almost everything else in life, smartphones are quickly becoming the first line of defense against slipping back into old habits, and I wondered if this technology could be my answer to improving my health without allowing the goal of treating my body better to seem too large or general to accomplish. We’ve all heard the phrase “there’s an app for that” but really, almost anything health related has an app. A quick scan of the iTunes App store boasted thousands of medical apps ranging from an encyclopedia of medicinal herbs, to a baby heartbeat monitor for pregnant women to use on their growing bundles of joy.
In the beginning stages of my research, I noticed that even the medical community is getting in on the game, using some very specialized apps which have allowed doctors to quickly and efficiently diagnose and treat a variety of conditions. At first I was leery, since according to the health tech industry blog HealthITjobs.com, users should always consider carefully what information they’re inputting into apps: “There are real concerns with regards to privacy and HIPPA compliance within this new wave of health related apps. Most of these apps are not regulated by the government for safety or security so right now the responsibility lies in the hands of the app developers. On the flip side, these apps are empowering individuals to take control of their own health and enabling healthcare providers to make better decisions with more data.”
Earth Day only happens once a year but we think it’s important to remember our connection to our environment and planet every day. Whether it’s a simple thing like drinking your morning cup of coffee outside to take a moment and appreciate the green grass and nice weather or if you’ve taken the extra steps to start composting your household waist. There are so many things we can do, big and small, to show appreciation for Mother Earth and take steps to take better care of her. A lot of the things we promote on Intent - meditation, connection, being present – are all related to the understanding that we are all bonded with the world around us. We are connected to each other and the living things on this planet, and when we appreciate that fact we begin to lead happier and lighter lives. So for our weekly quote post we gathered some inspirational sayings to inspire a strengthened bond between you and our earth.
When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
And in my hour of darkness
She is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be
I stood outside in the yoga class and listened as a young woman told her friend, “well if it’s meant to be, it will be.” As I always do, the words from the Beatles above filled my head. “Let it be.” One of the lessons I have learned on the journey is that indeed, it is often to let things be.
But there is a second level of the process of more to it than being a passive observer of your life, and this is another very important lesson that I think gets lost in the desire to be in the flow, and to let things happen. I have learned this the hard way as well.
It’s almost a two-step process – especially for Westerners. We live in a society with technology at our fingertips. We’ve modified the organisms of the food chain. We feel that we are in total and complete control of our destiny and of the world around us. We’re not. We need to understand that as much as we think that we have controlled the world – the world still has mysteries and secrets that we will never understand.
Usually, this then translates, in yoga studio lobbies, to men and women talking about other men and women and debating the outcome of a relationship. It usually involves party A who has been trying too hard to force the relationship with party B whom they’ve either been dating, been wanting to date, been wanting to marry or procreate.
Faced with obstacles and frustration, they then declare that “if it’s meant to be, it will be.” It’s as if they have decided that it’s out of their hands and in the universe’s. This is, in my mind, a simple bastardization of the concept of flow and the role it plays in our lives.
To me, to be in the flow is first to listen. You have to understand what is happening around you, and most importantly, within you. You have to eliminate the chatter of the world and most importantly, the chatter within you. You might think that the reason you are nervous / scared / anxious about an issue or person is clear-cut and simple – it almost certainly isn’t and if you think you can see and understand what you are feeling and why without serious quiet and introspection, I’d be careful.
Let’s say you are deciding what you want to do for a new career. You need to think about it and ponder the pro’s and con’s in a logical way. How much money will you make? Where will you live? You will not become a yoga teacher by chance – it takes conscious action.
Once the input has been entered, then it’s time to sit down, meditate and think about it. How does it feel? What does it look like? What direction can you give yourself with the input entered?
If it feels right still, then here’s the important part – the power of positive flow.
I described it once to a friend in Burma last year like this.
Imagine you are standing on a river bank and the water is moving by you. You won’t get anywhere if you just stand on the river bank. The water is not going to come out and get you and pull you in.
You have to step into the water.
Then, you have two choices.
You can go against the current. And here I often think of my friends who are lawyers, and are miserable being lawyers (not all are, but a lot seem to be.) They turn into the stream and trudge hard against the current. They try to swim and fight upstream. They won’t succeed.
So you turn the other way, you are in the river and you let the river take you.
Here’s where positive flow comes in.
The river will take you but you will get there faster if you move with the river. If you have ever swum downstream in a river that’s moving fairly fast, you know that a leisurely swim moves you quickly – it’s almost as if you are flying down – that’s what you want to do.
If the man or woman you are interested in moves to another city, you can’t simply hope it will work out. It’s going to take real work and real effort. I have learned this recently with this wonderful woman in my life. It’s work to talk and communicate and share – more work than I have experienced before. It’s not just simply going to happen.
I also learned a lesson a few years ago. A woman I really enjoyed was flying to South Africa and the schedules got topsy turvy and I wasn’t going to be there for much time at all when she was going to be there. I debated changing my ticket home (I was on a business trip with a good friend.) My friend advised me not to. “If it’s meant to be, it will be.” And I left. The last email that the woman flying in sent was “Wait, we’re not even going to have dinner?”
I should have stayed.
So now, I feel that it’s a combination of swimming and floating. Of listening and acting. Of holding and letting go. The right place for me is a pulsing between the two. I listen now to myself and to the people important to me.
I always make sure that I am in the river. And I always make sure that if I am headed in a direction that feels right, I don’t mind floating and watching the world move by me.
But I also don’t mind putting my head in the water and slowly helping the river push me.
“Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
I was on a coaching call with a particularly rigid and challenging client. He was lamenting how things don’t go his way – he’s not lucky like others – and he named a few celebrities, sports personalities and city success stories. “They seem to get all the luck,” he said. My question to him was, “Is it luck or preparation?” This changed the tone of our conversation and we started to make some great progress.
Personally, I don’t think I believe in luck. Instead, I believe in preparation and being present to things as they happen. Prepared, we now are tuned in to things that we first would not have seen, and second would not have acted upon. Like the quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, I like to think that my intentionality in things leads to their results – cause and effect. To me, luck is what we rely on when we don’t prepare; luck has never struck me as a success formula.
In addition to my coaching, writing and speaking, I am an adjunct professor at a college in South Florida, teaching in the business school. In my last class, I asked them how they are using their time in college to get ready for life after college. Only two of the 33 students in class had a plan. Only two had a strategy to intentionally selected their majors, enroll in courses that were necessary for what they wanted to do after college (even taking courses that were not in their majors) and what internships would give them the most practice, experience and exposure. Clarity. Intentionality. Focus. The rest of the class just shrugged and shared that “with a little luck” they would find something meaningful after college. With a little luck? This was like trying to drive without your hands on the wheel.
We get results in life when we take responsibility for ourselves as life unfolds. I know we can’t control the events of life, but we can show up present to them, gather information from them, then make meaningful decisions in the moment that lead us in the direction that fits what we want for our lives. Not showing up present means we’ll get moved along according to the whims or plans of others. We then celebrate good luck or blame bad luck for things.
Why is it that we rely on luck instead of great preparation? Here are a couple of thoughts:
- We have been told this is just how life is done. It is a big, cold mean world that favors some and not others. Some people are lucky and others aren’t.
- We don’t know how to create success for ourselves because we haven’t learned how to know ourselves and how to connect to opportunities in work and life that need what we do best – we don’t know how to look for opportunities.
- We don’t own our results. It is always easy to make things someone else’s fault. Attributing things to luck let’s us off the hook from being accountable; we have something or someone to blame.
To move away from relying on or blaming luck requires listening to the wisdom of some of today’s greatest consciousness thinkers. They remind us that when we show up present to the moments of life, we connect to information. Information then creates options. Expanded options increase our ability to find and select the ones that move us forward. In other words, clarity in our direction plus awareness of options creates preparedness; this seems a better life success formula than relying on luck. Talk to the successful people in life and they will share that their success was not based on luck but rather on preparation and awareness of opportunities. This seems a far better formula for success than luck.
Kim, Seoku Jong, the reporter for the Kyungyang Shinmun, one of Korea’s major daily newspapers, recently interviewed me about my book True Refuge, which is now available in Korean. Since most of my readers won’t be able to read the article in Korean, I wanted to share the interview with you hear.
KSJ: How are you doing? Please tell us what interests you most these days.
TB: My mother, who lives with us, recently went into home hospice care. What interests me is that when we face the truth of mortality—that these lives can pass like a dream, that we will each lose those who are dear—what most matters is love. At the end of our lives, the question that will be central is, “Did I love well?” It’s clear that the more we remember to live this moment, here and now, in a loving, awake way, the more our lives will be truly aligned with our values and our heart.
I’m deeply saddened to be losing my mom – she is a wonderful being, filled with generosity, humor, and kindness. She meditates, as do my siblings, and by being together in the present moment, by loving without holding back, this time of sorrow is also a time of great beauty. This experience is, to me, possible throughout our lives. If we can remember what most matters to us, our lives will be vibrant, creative, loving, and beautiful.
KSJ: The world is full of suffering and it doesn’t seem to end. No one is free from suffering. Your book introduces to readers the moving stories of people who managed to heal themselves despite their wounds, and to a number of meditation methods that can be applied for the liberation from suffering. If you can briefly summarize the essence of True Refuge, what it would be?
TB:While the pain and loss that is part of life will continue, we each have the capacity to free ourselves from the suffering of feeling threatened, separate, or deficient. This becomes possible when we can see past our story of egoic self and contact the deeper truth and fullness of who we really are. The essence of each of us is loving presence – an awareness that is pure, wakeful, and boundless. This is our True Refuge. Those who have healed themselves with meditation have learned to pay attention in a way that has carried them home to loving presence, our true nature.
A key part of finding this True Refuge of loving presence is bringing a kind and mindful attention to all the expressions of our egoic self. We don’t find True Refuge by eliminating the ego; we come home when, like the ocean, we embrace all the waves that arise from our Being. In a very real way, this means embracing the aggression and defensiveness, the insecurities and hurts. What we don’t love controls us. Yet, as we enfold more and more of our experience in acceptance and love, we realize the freedom and vastness of our awakened heart.
KSJ: What is false refuge, and how is it different from True Refuge? And why is it so important to have True Refuge?
Being human is challenging. We’re aware of the dangers we face—rejection, failure, disease, loss, death—and our habit is to try to control whatever we can. A false refuge is a control strategy that might give temporary relief, but in the long run does not serve us. For example, we might overeat to soothe our anxiety or to feel some gratification, but we then feel ashamed or gain unhealthy weight. We might work very hard to prove ourselves worthy, but become overly busy and neglect our loved ones. We might brag or exaggerate to get others approval, but inwardly feel like a fake. All these false refuges actually take us farther from the experience of being at home with ourselves, secure in the essential goodness of who we are.To be continued…
Setting intentions happens whether we are conscious we are doing it or not. Our mindset, well being, thought process and actions stem from our intentions. I’ve become much more aware of my intentions thanks to Mallika Chopra, and the whole Intent team. Daily reminders to set an intention to follow through the day has been an expansive and fun journey that I aim to keep on the good foot for. Part of holding myself accountable for my intentions is sharing them with you all here and hearing what your intentions are. With support we can accomplish so much.
My intention for 2014 is to spread Strala to Guides (our word for Teacher) around the world. If you asked me 6 years ago if I would create my own “style” of yoga, I would have said absolutely not. I thought that was just about the most ego centered thing possible, and my aim with sharing yoga and mediation and healthy mindful practices was to help people connect with themselves, not to draw attention to myself as a Guru.
The more I taught and shared what I was sharing the more people continued to tell me, this was very different than other yoga. The style of Strala was almost crowd sourced. The people who came to the classes and the studio wanted to know the name, the system behind the movements, and how they could share this as well. For years I said, “Oh no, it’s just yoga. It’s just easy going yoga.” People kept pulling it out of me, wanting more, and wanting to share. People were already teaching Strala influenced classes years ago before there was a program outlined. People came, they loved what they experienced, and went on and shared and had success. It was really overwhelming to see it all emerge and I didn’t quite know how to handle or formulate at the time.
After constant feedback after every class about how great people felt and “What is this!” I knew there was something beyond my personality of the class, beyond my playlist, beyond my sequence, that people could teach. This was about Strala, not about me, and that was an incredible realization for me personally. I had finally uncovered, “How can I help.”
Because people were having so much success in their lives with practicing Strala and people were having so much success in leading Strala, I decided it was what I should focus all my energy on. I wanted to help and this was working, without any effort in the beginning really. I thought about the style, the movement vocabulary (from my dance background) the healing aspects, the philosophy of “how can I help” over “what can I prove” and how that all filtered into teaching the classes. Where to be in the room, how to touch and support people, rather than fix, permission and freedom to move how it feels good to move. Inhales lifting and expanding. Exhales softening and moving. Energy lifting up like a beach ball being bounced by a group of friends on the beach. The energetic, fun, authentic vibe. I began to formulate in the way my lifetime of dance and pedagogy informed me. I realized formulating a movement system is exactly who I am and what I can offer best. Strala means to radiate light. It’s what happens when people practice and it’s what happens to me when I teach people how to lead it.
My intention for 2014 is to spread Strala. I’ve been teaching the trainings for about 3 years, and the last year has become super energized, and expansive. I feel incredibly confident in the system. It’s about the Guides, not me, and it empowers so many. That makes me feel really great.
I’m traveling around the world leading Intensive trainings at SCLA and other facilities. My schedule is bananas. I can’t keep up with the demand which is super exciting. I’ll be training several other teachers that have been leading Strala for a while to teach the trainings and we will spread the ease and freedom of movement far and wide.
What’s your intention?
Tara Stiles is participating in our 2014 Year of Intent campaign where we encourage people to use Intent.com to reach their goals and show how intents manifest in daily life. Create an account today to get started or click here to follow and support Tara as she spends the year spreading Strala Yoga to the world.
One of my brothers still lives on Cape Cod, the place where my 5 siblings and I grew up. This is noteworthy for two reasons – first, he is a scenic photographer – he captures amazing shots of nature; second, Cape Cod and New England has had snowstorm after snowstorm this winter. This has created one of his latest works – the amazing flowering cherry tree in his front yard in each of the four seasons. Amazing flowers in spring, great dense green leaves in summer, amazing fiery reds and orange foliage in fall and the bare brown trunk blanketed under epic snow in winter. This bold tree is resilient; it shows up powerfully in each season. It inspires my intention to be more resilient.
The lesson from the cherry tree is that we too are capable of shining no matter what happens. We are resilient to handle the seasons – and by seasons I mean the constant changes in our lives. We meet sunny days where things are going our way – we flower, we shine. We meet stormy days that seem unfair, unrelenting and scary. When we are intentional and determined about connecting to our inner greatness and strength – to the power deep in us – we find we have access to amazing resilience. This helps us show up strong and committed to life, regardless what comes our way.
It still amazes me that this tree can survive in temperatures from minus 10 to nearly 100 degrees. It stands there and faces what comes, doing what it does best – living its truest self. It doesn’t lament the rains or wind. It doesn’t give up when it snows. It doesn’t wish that its leaves would remain all year – it allows them to change color and sends them off to make room for new ones. It partners with life; it allows life.
We however, like to plan and control everything in life. And when things don’t go according to plan, we find fault. We get angry. We blame. We quit. We feel at the affect of our world – at odds with it.
Or, we could learn from this cherry tree. We could see that we have the strength and resilience to see the blessing in every event, and not to fight with life but live it as it is delivered. “Anyone can be cooperative, patient and understanding when things are going well and life is good. But it is the noble man or woman who can behave with grace and compassion, and even kindness, when times are bad,” shares Garr Reynolds, blogger of Presentation Zen. My intention is to be noble and act with grace, compassion and kindness regardless of what happens in life.
Resilience, or grit, is what enables us to show up committed to life when life sends snowstorm after snowstorm. Resilience is what enables us to show up big to life when our idea didn’t work, the relationship failed, or the job was lost. As the great Japanese proverb says, “Fall down seven times, get up eight.” We can choose to bounce back – we can choose to see what was, understand it, learn from it and get back into life’s driver’s seat. We, like the flowering cherry in my brother’s front yard, can just keep on keepin’ on. Resilient. Strong. Committed. Determined. Intentional. Living our greatness and ready for the next moment of life – whatever that might look like.
Find your resilience role model – nature, a pet or even a person. Mine is this amazing cherry tree. Let it share its wisdom with you; learn from it and let it inspire you to be intentional and purposeful about living powerfully, positively and resiliently no matter what comes your way.