Kindness Matters

Today my youngest son’s school begins a “Kindness Challenge.” It’s a week-long effort to promote kindness toward one another. The school sent the kids home with a list of kind acts - things as simple as smile at 25 people or bring a nice note for your teacher. It’s a wonderful way for kids to realize that the smallest actions can have a great impact.

02-Kindness-Quotes-to-Remind-You-to-Be-Nice-233350501-MSSA-1024x683.jpg

I recognize that there are children (and adults for that matter) who need a kindness reminder. They need “the list” to rustle up deeply-hidden feelings of compassion and kindness. So a “Kindness Challenge” is essential for this specific group as it may be the push necessary to help them flex their thoughtfulness muscles. What I am hopeful for, though, is that a week focused on kindness is simply supplementary to the daily actions of the majority of people.

In our home, we speak a lot about being kind to one another. It sounds a bit hippie dippy, but I think this is why my boys are so thoughtful. It’s my firm belief that we must not only teach and encourage our children to be kind, but SHOW them in our ways of being. How parents interact, including the tone and words used in conversation, instill a positive or negative feeling in children. They know when you’re in love because they see the hugs, but they also know when you’re giving Daddy the silent treatment. Catching ourselves in the moment when we’re about to go to the Dark Side is especially crucial when children are watching.

The lessons of kindness also extend outside the home. When my boys were very young and we would see a child yelling at his mother, or another child being nasty to her sister, I’d come down to their level and ask what they thought of the situation. I’d ask how they thought the mother or sibling felt, and what they thought the upset child was feeling. I asked them if there may have been a kinder way to express those feelings. This had two positive outcomes: my boys never wanted to be the kid freaking out at the store because they now realized how it looked from the outside, and they became more aware of how to express their feelings without disparaging or neglecting those of others.

We would also speak about how some children have behavioral or developmental issues that prevent them from assessing their situations thoughtfully and acting in a productive way. I wanted my boys to understand and sympathize with these children who might not have the same self-restraint they do. This resulted in them realizing that we must appreciate our differences, and to always send positive vibes to others because you don’t know what their story is.

Now that my children are a little older (9 and 12), we don’t need to remind them to be kind. They are generally very empathetic. What we are doing now is reinforcing more compassionate ways by seeking out volunteer opportunities in which to engage as a family. How can we bring joy to others? What can we do to effect positive change?

I look forward to providing an update of our family’s commitment to global kindness. Until then, in the words of Ellen…”Be kind to one another.”

Goodbye 2018. Hello 2019

Last night I went to bed at 10:30pm. Not a big deal, except it was New Year’s Eve and my almost 12-year-old was beside himself that his parents couldn’t even make it to midnight. But this morning I woke up at 6:30am, feeling great having not eaten or drunk too much, and getting a solid 8 hours of sleep. Goodbye 2018. Hello 2019. 

Photo by Natalia Dotto Photography

Photo by Natalia Dotto Photography

During dinner yesterday we went around the table and talked about what we want to leave behind in 2018. My 9-year-old agreed that it would be best for him to cease, or at the very least, reduce his general complaining. My eldest decided that his procrastination may have to be ditched in favor of a more organized system to attack his mounting school work. My husband said he will let go of the attachment he feels toward the startup company where he works, since it was recently acquired by a larger company and therefore will look and feel very different in the new year. 

When it was my turn, I said “expectations.” 

Expectations of others sprung to mind instantly. What I learned in 2018 is that when I expect people to behave in a certain fashion (read: the way I think is normal), and they don’t, I am disappointed. This past year I found myself disappointed a lot.

Upon moving to a new house in a new city, in a new state, I expected my friends would connect with me, even by sending me the occasional text to just say “hi.” Few did.  

In the moment I faulted them. But now I realize that for them nothing had changed. Their life looked the same - same house, same job and same environment. Mine had changed, but they weren’t inherently affected. I also realize people operate differently, and while I know this in theory, it can be an afront in practice, especially when it comes to fragile feelings. 

Embracing the fact that people operate differently frees me from hoping that others will be thoughtful in their words and actions. I can only control my own actions and reactions. It’s a great yogic practice: watching your own reaction in moments of stress or discomfort, and then working toward non-reaction.

In the same vein, I’ve also decided it’s healthiest for me to drop my expectations when it comes to my career. This does not mean that I have stopped setting goals. I am simply just taking a more pragmatic approach to my goals. The last few years swirled in over-commitment. I would teach 15 yoga classes a week, plan and lead a couple retreats a year, volunteer at the kids’ schools, chauffeur them to their activities, and run a household with my hands-on hubby (without a nanny or housekeeper, which is my own personal choice). 

Given this new life in Seattle, and now stepping into a new year, I’m eager to see what evolves in my career. I look forward to my two retreats in 2019, whether 20 people join me or just 2. I will continue to teach people who come to my classes with a full heart, rather than focusing on the trivial concern over a full class. Maybe most importantly, I’ll give myself space to reflect on what it is that I want to do, rather than just doing what is expected of me.

My transformation toward letting go of expectations has already taken root. Now my hope is it will blossom, and I can devote this new-found energy to more amazing things with my family, friends and students.

Goodbye 2018. Hello 2019.

 

Do you "like" me or do you really like me?

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know what social media is. I'd go as far as to say that even the rock dwellers have heard of Facebook. No, this is not going to be a post about whether we should boycott Facebook and other social media outlets due to recent news. That's a topic for a heated family discussion over Thanksgiving dinner. 

Instead I want to touch on how we engage in social media. Before I launch into this topic, I know that there are people out there (my husband included) who have chosen to NOT be on any social media. I used to think these people were nuts. Now I am beginning to think they are the brightest of us all.

I opened my Facebook account in 2007 when my eldest son was just a baby. It was a way to connect with family and friends, and post photos of my son, whom I thought (as all young parents do) was the sweetest, cutest and smartest child in the universe. It was an added bonus to be able to search people from my past to see how they've aged. (Don't act as though you've never done it!)

IG.PNG

My family and friends would often "like" or comment on my photos, which validated my feelings that my baby was the sweetest, cutest and smartest. At least, it made my heart swell to see the "likes" and I enjoyed clicking the little "like" button when I came upon photos, status updates and other tidbits from my friends.

Then Instagram came along. I was resistant to it at first because I didn't understand how it worked. I joined IG just for the cool filters and took photos of flowers in my garden. I had no idea what a hashtag was nor how to use it. Fast-forward a couple years and I became a yoga teacher. Not understanding the IG world, I happened to post a photo of me in an arm-balance...and lo and behold, several random people "liked" it. I was confused. Who were these people and why did they suddenly want to follow me?

As I grew my small business as a yoga teacher, I recognized the power of social media. It is actually a necessity in my industry. So I began posting more frequently.  I actively searched for posts by like-minded people. I even became one of those people who would "like" someone else's post without knowing them. And then I fell into the rabbit hole of wasting hours on IG, hoping my posts were entertaining, or informative, or whatever, to the masses. 

Of course, studies have now shown there is a correlation between our dopamine and oxytocin levels and social media use. Dopamine helps to control the brain's pleasure and reward centers. Oxytocin is often called the "cuddle" or "love" hormone and regulates social interaction and sexual reproduction. It plays a role in maternal-infant bonding especially in breastfeeding, and is also linked to generosity. Bottom line, the more our posts are viewed or liked, the more we feel good. And the more we crave these positive feelings, the more time we waste staring at a screen. 

This is how we get addicted to social media. I'm just as guilty as the next person when it comes to spending too much time scrolling on my phone. But, I'm getting better. I continue to enjoy the exchange of free information and entertainment that social media provides. I still post daily, often sharing how-to videos on poses and thoughts on yogic teachings, but instead of incessantly checking my phone, I dedicate time to do so. I even encourage my kids to call me out if they notice I'm on my phone too much.

Since digging myself out of the rabbit hole, I am no longer attached to "likes." In fact, some members of my own family don't even "like" my posts. I mean, maybe they appreciate them, but they just don't click the button. Or maybe, they flat-out don't like what I'm posting. Here's the thing: it doesn't matter. 

I want to remain authentic on social media. I'm not airbrushed or spray-tanned. While I have some professional yoga photos, they don't consume my page. I post failures as well as successes (check out my previous blog on IG fakery when it comes to perfect handstands and other yoga poses). My insta-stories are generally of my family, my meals and my personal yoga practice. My approach to social media is to use it as an avenue for content. If my followers enjoy my content, they'll stick around. If not, they'll unfollow me. I do not post content to GET followers - that's why you won't see a slick photo of me posing in a racy swimsuit. As the kids say, "that's not my jam." But being real IS..., "like" it or not.