Life Lessons

Kripalu life coaches share their experiences and pearls of wisdom.

Posted on September 12th, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Life Lessons

Moving Forward After Cancer

A cancer survivor explores bold new directions

When I plopped into the Radiance program’s opening night welcome circle, I was exhausted. That morning, I had attended the memorial service for my dear friend, Dara, who had passed a week before. A couple hundred people gathered to share stories, laughter, tears, and outrage that this beautiful, lively, loving soul had left at age 40, from cancer.

And now, a train ride and time warp later, here I was in the branch-filled Berkshires, sitting in a back jack, meeting eight cancer survivors and our co-leader Maria Sirois. In that moment, “life after cancer” looked to me like throwing a rose on my friend’s coffin and hearing it thud. It looked like crying myself to sleep every night for the last two weeks.

But as I settled in and heard tales of diagnosis and survival, I remembered: Oh. We’re all still here. In my fellow workshoppers—eight people from their 30s through 50s—I saw stress and fear and bravery and resilience and resistance. I saw myself. Diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma seven years ago at age 31, I had almost been forgetting that I was a survivor, too.

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Posted on September 4th, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Life Lessons

Writing Home: Finding Myself Through Journaling

Lisa Pletzer, guest blogger

It was the first day of my junior year of high school, and my English teacher had just handed each of us a blank notebook.

“You’re all going to keep journals this year,” she said. “I’ll periodically collect them to count pages—not to read—so I want you to feel like you can be totally open and honest.” She told us that our final exam would be writing a paper about our observations of how we’d grown through our journal writings from the entire school year.

I’d always loved to write and had kept a diary in the past. But after a bad experience a couple of years before involving my mother reading my diary (“I thought you were writing a book!”) and discovering my growing interest in having sex with my boyfriend, I’d basically sworn off putting anything in writing. But this, I thought, might be different. It was a school notebook, after all. No reason for anyone to go snooping there!

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Posted on August 6th, 2012 by in Life Lessons

The Balancing Act

The inherent balance of body, mind, and spirit is our birthright, our natural default, and is always available to us. And what a blessing that is!

Consider the strangely discordant nature of our being. There’s the spirit, already connected to all—deeply quiet, the essence of peace. There’s the mind, eager to rush out of that seat of peace into the illusion of control, into yesterday, while wildly scanning tomorrow. And, finally, there’s the body, which holds the contradictions between the mind and the spirit.

Our minds become the primary operating filter through which we exist. As the mind takes over our experience, our access to the body’s signals weakens and our connection to the spirit diminishes. In order to find the balance between body, mind, and spirit, the mind needs to be trained. Without its training, we deprive ourselves of the depth of information available to us through the body and the spirit. Try these tips to train the mind and re-balance your life:

• At a red light, take three deep breaths. This brief break can help reestablish homeostasis, the body’s relaxation response.
• At work, set an alarm on your phone for a specific time mid-morning. At that point, walk to the restroom, allowing every step to be one of mindful presence. Splash water on your face. Be there, feel it. Enjoy this refreshing, balancing break.
• Take a few minutes at the end of your workday for a mindful transition: Do some simple stretches; go for a short walk. As you release the stress of the workday, you’ll be more relaxed and more available when you return home.

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Posted on July 31st, 2012 by in Life Lessons

From Perfectionism to Slackerdom

The road from the unattainable to the beauty of the reasonable

Cheryl Kain, guest blogger

“Perfection is the enemy of excellence.”

—Marcia Cilley

I spent my teens through my early forties chasing perfectionism, in everything I wore, wrote, performed, thought, ate, and spoke. My deeply insecure core instinctively poured my “flawed” self into countless self-help books, groups, and ways of creating a “perfect” persona. I’ll break it down for you: In search of the perfect body, I starved myself or, at least, politely deprived it. Leaving the house sans perfectly-nonchalant-but-fiercely-hip outfit was not an option. I needed the perfect vibe or I didn’t deserve Los Angeles to see me.

If I wasn’t a full-time, seven-days-a-week yogini, I was a failure. If my singing career didn’t land me a record deal with a major label and a European tour, then what was the use? If I wasn’t an international celebrity already, then why bother? Life felt frustrating, sad, and heartbreakingly unsatisfying.

What’s insidious about perfectionism—or, more accurately, the pursuit of perfection—is that it leads nowhere. Wait, I take that back. For me, it led to frustration, chronic low self-esteem, heart palpitations, extra weight (funny how dieting can do that), and the soul-crushing feeling that nothing in my life would ever be good enough. I could never seem to do or have or be what was perfect.

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Posted on July 30th, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Life Lessons

Stop and Smell the Roses

In the age of over-busy, what does it mean to make every minute count?

A recent op-ed in the New York Times entitled “The ‘Busy’ Trap”—in which writer Tim Kreider describes a 21st-century America dominated by people whose favorite catchphrase is some version of “I’m sooo busy”— drew virtual nods of acknowledgment from across the web. This busyness, Kreider argues, is most often self-imposed: work and activities we’ve taken on, or encouraged our kids to take on, voluntarily. We’re busy because we’re ambitious, and we’re busy because we’re scared of what not being busy says about us. And it’s costing us our physical and mental health, our relationships, and, ironically, our productivity.

“We live with a lot of demands,” says Kripalu Senior Life Coach Aruni Nan Futuronsky. Aruni says that the amount—and the intensity—of stress she’s seeing among her clients has grown stronger and more pervasive over the last few years. She points to the “sandwich generation,” the set of adults tasked with taking care of both their children and their aging parents. At the same time, she says, life’s job is to take us away from the moment. “We’re so infrequently unplugged from work or news that our bodies are literally flooded with cortisol and adrenaline 24 hours a day,” says Aruni. “Our culture does an extraordinary job of making us wacky. Our responsibility is to find ways to reclaim some stillness, no matter what’s going on.”

But haven’t we heard for ages—from everyone from our grandmothers to our gurus, contained in songs on the radio and sermons at church—that we have but one life; we need to ‘make it count’? How do we tell the difference between making the most of every moment and busying ourselves into destruction? It’s actually pretty simple, says Aruni. “Yogically speaking, the way you make every minute count is to literally stop,” she says. “Yoga, and its principles, don’t deny us the external world but help us appreciate it by slowing down, by stopping the constant doing.”

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Posted on July 19th, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Life Lessons, Studies, News, and Trends

What, us worry? Better than anyone.

In his new memoir,Monkey Mind, Daniel Smith describes a life spent in near- constant panic. He’d have recurring nightmares about premature death. He’d wrestle over the decision between ketchup and barbecue sauce. He’d sweat, a lot. In Monkey Mind—the title comes from the Buddhist term meaning “unsettled, restless”—Smith, now mostly recovered though still no stranger to the panic attack, uses humor and blunt-force honesty to describe what is an ever-present, and very American, condition: worry.

These days, everyone’s a worrier. Nearly one in five Americans suffer from an anxiety disorder. If there were an international war of worriers, we’d be winning: According to a recent World Health Organization study, 31 percent of Americans are likely to suffer from an anxiety issue at some point in their lives. Compare that to second-place Colombia, where the anxious top out at 25.3 percent. Even those in developing countries are less likely to fret: According to the 2002 World Mental Health Survey, people in developing-world countries are up to five times less likely to show clinically significant anxiety levels than Americans. Until, that is, they move here.

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Posted on July 10th, 2012 by in Life Lessons

Let Your Inner Child Come Out and Play

Summer and fun go hand-in-hand. The richness of the season gives us permission to open up and to let go, in body, mind, and spirit. So this is the perfect time to reinvent—and recommit to—your playful inner child.

Our childhood memories often act as doorways to pleasure and laughter. Along with the more challenging memories of childhood, remembering the freedom and spontaneity of our young selves can inform our adult selves in healthy and relaxing ways.

What summer activities lit you up as a kid? Did you enjoy swimming in the creek? Riding your bike to a new destination and having a picnic once you arrived? Going for a long walk as the sun set? Visiting amusement parks or the zoo?

When we give ourselves that which lights us up, so many arenas of the positive unfold, and the simple relaxation that results from having fun is a profound gift. Emotionally, we benefit so deeply from laughing, from letting go. And spiritually, the connection we feel while letting go into fun is profound. As Rumi says, “The door is round and open.”

So go ahead, choose one childhood outdoor activity. Give yourself this gift—the gift of summer, the gift of laughter, the gift of childhood, the gift of fun.

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Posted on July 5th, 2012 by in Life Lessons

Do Something Different

Look out the window. How many ways can you notice the rebirth of the earth? Take in the color of the grass, the bright hues emanating from the flowers. Listen to the sounds of the birds rejoicing in life. We, too, are of this earth and share this capacity for renewal. Unlike the flowers and grass and birds, however, we need to consciously shift our behavior in order for renewal to unfold.

Here are some steps to help you cultivate that unfolding. These actions require focus and commitment, but as you take them, relax into the flow. Be the creator of your life. Generate circumstances that inspire you to come alive.

Approach something differently: Perhaps you can shake up your morning routine. If you usually get up and read the paper, try going for a walk or meditating instead. Eat breakfast outside instead of in your kitchen, or give yourself some time in the morning to write a poem. Break out of your weekend routine and plan an adventure—an excursion to the beach or a museum, a picnic with friends. Make a date with yourself to do it. Schedule it into your calendar. Create a perfect playful day for yourself.

Is there something creative that you’re interested in pursuing? Give yourself the time to explore it. Watercolors? Pottery? Find a class, and enlist a support group for yourself as you investigate this interest.

Have you started a new class or ritual lately? Have you done something completely outside of your comfort zone just to try something new? Share with us!

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