Lead Your Life

Leadership, Awareness, and Growth

Our Purpose Path February 20, 2018

**Article originally published by WNC Women February 2018**

_____________________________________________________________________

I hesitate to say I’ve learned anything completely as mastery is elusive.  Time shifts understanding and advances possibility.  And thus, what I can say is I am on the path to learn a better way.  A better way to make an impact, live fully, care for myself, and love unabashedly.

In my life, I have overemphasized the importance of work.  I’m quite skilled at this imbalance and have prescribed to the “first in, last out” attendance policy, gone the extra mile(s) always, and sacrificed health and personal relationships as the price of progress.

It sounds horrid, I know.  However, it looks quite lovely.  I am happily married with two beautiful teenagers I adore and who for the most part, adore me.  I own two businesses currently of wildly different missions; a building materials manufacturing company and Pure Yoga in downtown Asheville.  In my career, I have worked in corporate consulting, sold and bought businesses, turned personal passions into entrepreneurial enterprises, and logged a lot of frequent flyer miles and hours.

I say all of this from a place of humility as the way in which I have blazed this path is pocked with scars from using more force than grace.  While I’ve studiously managed my calendar to ensure presence with my family, this lifestyle has cooled friendships, waylaid adventure, and demised wellness.

Is a better way possible?  Must it mean giving up something in order to create a new? How differently might the world look standing on top of the wheel versus running at full sprint on the wheel?  We each have these questions to answer.  For me, I am learning to soften, to lean into experience as a sister companion to achievement.

11 years ago, I had a significant health crisis.  The year was 2006.  I was in the middle of an acquisition, my children were 2 and 4, and I was slowly, blindly running out of fuel.  I was strategically limiting my sleep so as to advance my work and be present for my kids, and eventually, my body began to fail.  It’s sneaky way of calling a time-out, no doubt as my hair began to fall out, my speech shattered, and my muscles atrophied.  I ached from head to toe, and I would drive places not knowing how I got there.

How can this even be?  I’m a long distance runner, avid hiker, golfer, lover of life.  I’m optimistic, genuinely happy, and surrounded by love.  I eat well, moderated everything that should be moderated, and yet, there I was in a slow fade.

My doctor’s comment to me?  “Your lifestyle looks great on paper.  And yet, if you don’t make a change, I’ll meet you in the hospital within 6 weeks.”   For someone who had always been in control of self and result, this was a shocking prognosis.  If I hadn’t been so overwhelmingly exhausted, I might have been petrified.

This type of depletion does not happen overnight.  In fact, there had been signs carefully ignored for 2 years leading up to it; symptoms, test results, subtle nudges from family.  All indicators that I believed mind over matter could eradicate.  For goodness sake, I didn’t have time to be sick.  I had two children, a husband, a dog that kept running away, and a business to lead.

And so, I finally got serious about the true roots of wellness. Here’s a secret I learned: they are deeper than our society wants us to believe.  We are told to eat well and exercise (no doubt because these two factors have immediate impact on appearance).  We are not taught that mindfulness is nourishment for our soul & deep sleep for our bodies.  We are not taught that our breath is a gateway to radiance.

We are taught to balance the plates in the air & by all means, look good doing it. As an achievement junkie, I had mastered that skill set.  I believe this is a skill set many women master.  You, my dear reader friend, can most likely relate. Your story reads differently and yet it is the same with altered characters and settings.

The next several years were an exercise of healing.  My eternal love affair with yoga started with a single mat practice led by an uncertified teacher in a country club dining room.  I eventually made my way to a meditation cushion, and while this practice still requires strong “self-nudges,” I am grateful for the way it rehabilitates every day regardless of what’s happening in my life.  I stopped distance running, slept more, and began eating to nourish and nurture versus control my weight.  And yes, I took 2 weeks off from work.  And while that may not sound like much, for me, it was a feat as that’s as much time as I took following the birth of both of my children.  (Sigh.)

I discovered gratitude as a practice versus emotion, and I expanded my net of connection by opening my heart and investing my time with friends I cherish.

It took 3 years for my markers to return to “low normal;” a daily reminder to me that these sacred vessels we are given to explore our life are to be treated with care and intention.

Today, my life may not look that differently than it did prior to 2006.  I still own and lead my manufacturing company, I have created two yoga studios; selling the first when my family moved to Asheville last year, and investing my heart and passion into the second.  I have paused one of my passions turned entrepreneurial enterprises to support wholehearted living versus whole-minded working, and my children are now teenagers.  They are my wisdom holders; allowing me to see every day what it looks like to play in life, to relish in being, and to come back to the middle path.  They also gently remind me when work absorbs me; while simultaneously accepting me as I am.

I’m wired to work.  Work has always been a strange word to me with its reference to unwanted but mandatory effort.  For me, it has always felt like impact, and for that, I am happy.

In my career, I have talked to hundreds of people; mostly women, about their life’s path and struggle.  I hear universal threads that link us all.  A desire for connection, a deep wanting for joy and fulfillment, and a question around how we are called to live meaningfully.  To live a life that lives beyond our lifetime.

My answer?  Trust yourself.  Slow down and listen.  Move your body in ways that heal your body and spirit.  Receive food as self-care.  Know that you know.  Confide in your sister friends.  Pursue impact.  Meaningful work happens because we clarify our purpose path, we courageously eliminate distractions, and then we get busy bringing it to life.  That’s the better way.

 

maze

 

 

 

 

Advertisements
 

Off the wagon February 9, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — laurajuarez @ 7:06 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Greetings!  I am dusting myself off from the clumsy fall from the wagon as I write.  It is February 9th, and the resolution wagon has hit the unexpected potholes of distraction and boredom.  In hindsight, with 46 years of life experience, perhaps surprise shouldn’t be my response.

What I intended to do at the beginning of extraordinary 2018?

  • Meditate twice daily for 20 minutes
  • Stop eating corn chips (aided by my new found meditative presence)
  • Complete my eating before 8PM (aided by my elimination of my dietary weakness: crunchy salty)
  • Sleep 8 hours a night (aided by a well-oiled digestive system)
  • Practice non-reaction (aided by rest)
  • Dance every day for any amount of time (aided by my total lack of concern of what anyone will think if they witness it).

What is actually happening?

I’m meditating once a day treating it like it’s a drugstore multi-vitamin I have to remember to choke down; performance I’m certain is directly related to #4: Non – reaction.  If this morning’s “discussion” with my husband about who has dog duty is any indication of how that’s going, I’m going to have to give myself a strong D-.  I am sleeping 8 hours a night meaning I’m under the sheets for that amount of time albeit less restfully than I envisioned, and I am doing a jig of sorts daily (mostly by myself as you cannot believe how difficult it is to get others to break out into spontaneous dance).  And the corn chips…  Hmmmm.  I can truthfully say I have not had a corn chip before 7PM a single time (which should give you immediate insight on my no eating after 8PM).

On a scale of 1 – 10 on self-discipline and willpower, I am a solid 9.8.  Decide? Check.  Do the Thing?  Done Yesterday.

So what gives?  As part of the self-audit royal family, my assessment is multi-pronged.  I’m happy to share my audit results using myself as an example of what I believe is likely familiar to all of us.

  1. What’s My Why?  The greatest predictor of future success is clarity around why it matters and the ignition of passion around that WHY. While I have a WHY for all, I can only classify a couple as having a strong why meaning my WHY is greater in meaning and emotion than my WHY NOT.   If you cave on corn chips simply because they are delicious, it’s hard to argue that you lack a strong why.
  2. What’s My Plan?  I am in love with spreadsheets and project management (I know, TMI).  And….  I had no concrete plan for at least two of the above.
  3. What’s My Exit Strategy?  Even the most conditioned mind frays from time to time.  An exit strategy is a game plan premeditated for use when we are staring enticement or challenge in the eye.  Take corn chips.  First error?  Having them in the house.  Second error?  Not having an acceptable backup to handle cravings and/or a “stave off the craving” pep talk cued up on my pantry door, iPhone, palm.  Even I can see through my excuse:  “I’m buying them for my kids even though they would choose ANYTHING else as a snack.”
  4. What’s my joy?  Can I deeply connect with the benefit of my resolution in action and can I dwell in the joy of the process of creating that habit?  Easy to do this when you are dancing, but it takes deep digging to do this when practicing non-reaction.
  5. Is it a SHOULD DO versus a ritual of goodness?  Based on statistics, Webster should change the definition of RESOLUTION to mean:  Destined to fail within 39 days.  Just ask any yoga studio owner.  Can we drop this language and instead see our commitments as rituals that we are grooving into our life to feel cared for by ourselves and to live our dream?
  6. What’s the sweet spot?  The 6 resolutions above are really a subset of my full list (which is 10 but I know you don’t have the patience to read all 10 because you aren’t meditating either).  This is a chronic mistake I make:  Biting off more than I can chew.  The resolution I feel most passionately about is non-reaction.  It is also the one that has the greatest potential to impact the quality of my life, and it is a beast on its own.  Could just one ritual at a time be perfectly enough?

What are your reasons for dusting yourself off?

 

 

Life is like poker February 6, 2018

cards

Someone once described life to me as a card game.  There are seasons to simply pass by the game, seasons to find your fellow players & choose the game, to pick up the card deck and shuffle, to deal, and to play.  Truthfully, this analogy annoyed me more than illuminating life’s cyclical nature; however, years later I can see this natural rhythm happening all around me.  In my life & in yours.

And while I’d love a more poetic metaphor, the card game is quite accurate.  The real learning is in our discernment on timing.  Are we tuned into our heart and inner wisdom deeply and clearly enough to recognize the season?  To notice when the season begins to shift?  Do we have the courage and grace to follow the shift?

If I take a moment in stillness and know what I know beyond my cognition, I can recognize the signs of the season.  I can spot the tiny changes that lead to the end of one and the entry of another.  Much like the buds on a tree signaling spring, I can sense within what is emerging.

The difference between natural transitions and human transitions is we can opt out.  The budding tree doesn’t halt spring’s arrival because you didn’t notice it, and the first cold wind doesn’t head back north taking winter with it just because you resisted its arrival.

A deck of cards; however, does not deal itself.  It does not send the invitation to the game.  It just waits until you engage.  And if our standard mode of operation is full steam ahead, we may not even notice its existence let alone its question.

The question it asks us is: Where am I called to be now?  What does fulfillment look like now?  What chapter of my life am I truly in and what is my impact throughout it?  And from that place of awareness,  courageous choice and graceful action.

Our world will tell you: play the game, play the game, play the game.  And as a lover of playing the game, I take the bait every time.  And, sometimes that’s aligned.  And sometimes not.  If our choice was cued from external guidance, misalignment is inevitable.

So turn within…  What season are you in?

 

Corpse Pose January 29, 2018

It’s the end of your yoga practice, and the teacher turns down the lights.  You know it’s coming…. savasana.  Deep rest.  No more sweating, twisting, or balancing.

Savasana translates to corpse pose.  Don’t let that make you feel any less affectionate about it!  The name reminds us that this pose is more than just resting.  It means to die to our little self (ego) so that our big Self (spirit) can soar.

In practical every day life, that might mean you invite your stories, fears, and limiting beliefs to pass away.  Your story of not enough time, your fear of failure, and your self chatter of “I’m not good enough.”

It might mean that we allow our roles and responsibilities to cease so that we know ourselves beyond our roles.  We connect with the essence of who we are, our divine state, first and foremost with a secondary interest in our responsibilities.  We value ourselves on our heart versus our achievements.  We love ourselves deeply as we are in our being versus our doing.

And it might mean that we simply let our thoughts die.  That at the end of our practice after we’ve worked out our bodies, minds, and energy, that we simply abide in stillness without effort.

For me, my body often appears to be in savasana but the rest of me is raring to go.  My mind is fired, my attention alert, my roles intact.  When this happens, can we let our judgement of self die?  Simply let what is be as it is.  Breathe it out.  Witness.  Accept.  Try anew.

 

What does that word even mean? January 9, 2018

reverence

My favorite definition of reverence comes from Gary Zukav who defines it as this:

“Reverence is engaging in a form and a depth of contact with Life that is well beyond the shell of hte form and into the essence.  Reverence is contact with the essence of each thing, person, plan, bird, and animal.  It is contact with the interior of its beingness.  

Reverence is an attitude of honoring Life.  It is simply the experience of accepting that all Life is of value; in and of itself.”

I’m toying with this idea of seeing beyond sight to the interior of life:   To the interior of myself, to the interior of you, to the interior of relationships, to the interior of experience.  To dwell in connection with the essence versus form.  To experience by feeling versus thinking.

When we roll out our mat, we stand before a great opportunity to draw in the interior.  To move beyond habit and lean in towards the richness of reverence.

The rubber on the reverence road is engaging in the essence of what haunts or challenges us.  Maybe the “form” of that is a person or situation (and within both a belief we hold).  And if the only life we can course select is our own, then what does reverence look like in these sticky spots?

For me, I believe that our individual creation alone speaks to our divinity at the seat of our being.  Whether our life’s actions mirror that divinity is our choice; however, I live with the belief that within everyone, regardless of noise, abides divinity as essence.  And so, can I see it when the conversation is twisted?  Can I see it when I feel mistreated or underappreciated?  Can I dwell in the interior of a person versus poking at their exterior with my frustrated thoughts?

I roll out my mat for many reasons.  And this is one.  To learn to choose better in every moment so that more moments are spent in reverence.

 

Why do we roll? January 2, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — laurajuarez @ 3:52 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

starts here

Roll out our mat, that is.

What brings us to yoga is often not what draws us back.  We come wanting, striving, reaching for wellness, inner peace, and connection.  We come back to receive its gifts in a knowing that it is not about “doing yoga” but about allowing yoga to envelope us.  And instead of thinking we are “changed;” meaning we’ve altered our state, perhaps we can consider that we are awakened to our true and natural state.

Always there; waiting for us to notice.

A gift of our practice is harmony.  We practice over and over, and then one day sometime between our opening om and our closing savasana, we wake up to the simple wisdom that we are so much bigger than our mind.  That our intelligence bursts beyond the limits of our cognitive thinking.

Our mind – that beautiful cranium that resides in our upper quarter – was divinely designed as a tool.  And with any tool, we use appropriately and with purpose.  We use a hammer when a hammer is needed, a wrench when a wrench is needed, and we keep the whole tool kit tucked away when we have no need at all.  (And given that we have upwards of 70,000 thoughts a day; most of which are repetitive, unconscious, and not helpful, I might argue that we don’t need it as often as we assume).

Our mind enables us to use discernment, solve problems, map out, and progress forward.  Without it, we would struggle to exit bed let alone have a meaningful impact.  However, much like the hammer, it is not always the only and/or most meaningful source of intelligence to apply.

Within us we carry divine intelligence, innate wisdom, heart knowing, and body brilliance.  All guides and as powerful as our mind.

So we roll out our  mat, and we signal to the brain:  Relax. Trust. Play well with others.  I am grateful to you, and I am not enslaved to you.  And while our intelligence habit is one of mind dominance, we come to our mat to access our full knowing, our total Self.

 

 

Where do you dwell? December 14, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — laurajuarez @ 3:19 pm

One of my favorite quotes by Emily Dickinson is “Dwell in Possibility”.  We typically see this as a stand alone quote, but it is actually the first sentence of a poem that ends with:

“I extend the narrow width of my hand and I discover paradise.”

Dwell in possibility. Extend the narrow width of your hand and discover paradise. To me, this is a reminder that paradise lives within us.  Not within the confines of what we can see, touch and smell but beyond the edge of the tangible.   We extend our hand to serve, to love, to connect.  We extend our hand to help, to soothe, and to simply be with.

As we consider the paradise of our life, can we see it from the lens of the narrow width of our hand?  Not in possession or achievement but in touch and service.  The sweetness of life requiring nothing more than reaching out.