Category Archives: Your personal development and others

It is so much easier not to…like so much easier.

staying warmI’m usually a super early riser and I like getting up at 4:00 to 4:30am.  I realize that it is crazy early, but to me it is a very special time of day.  It is like extra time or the day become 26 hours and yet despite my wife’s rolling of her eyes or the “you need to be quieter as you get up in the middle of the night” remark sometime in the mid morning, it still just feels good.  But as of late since I got back to Canada, I’m struggling to get out of bed before 7am.

I’ve not been in a winter this bad in years.  There is a lot of darkness, cold and in general just shitty, stay inside weather.  Granted at 7am, it is still dark out (yaaa Canada!), but I can’t help a feeling of being behind when I do get up at 7:02 (still pushed it 2 extra minutes).  The bed is so dam comfy, the blankets are heavy and warm and the air in the apartment is chilly.  ”Why the hell would I want to get up?” is often the first full sentence that runs through my brain.

So it is much easier not to get up and skip practice.  But like all things worth doing, it is important to push through that resistance and urge to fall back into the easy. That one act of closing my eyes and dozing is in that moment, the easy choice but it will make the rest of my life more difficult.

If I can make that “difficult” decision (#firstworldproblems I know) of pulling back the covers and get up, then so many other things in my day will be easier.

If I do practice, then:

  • I keep my commitment to the tradition and lineage ofAshtanga
  • I sync my mind and body together via the breath and have that feeling of wellbeing all day.  This then makes my interactions with people, challenges, and thoughts, not only more pleasant, but much more honest.
  • I’ve done it and no matter what else I do all day, is not as hard and what is hard is put into a much more manageable perspective.
  • I’ve already spent 90-120 minutes alone with my thoughts and have a good handle on the quality of my mind (i.e. what’s on it for example) before I interact with anybody.  This dramatically raises the quality of my conversations, my ability to listen, and send meaningful emails and messages
  • I keep chipping away at yoga.  Yoga takes time and the more I do it, the deeper I go not only physically, but mentally and emotionally.

So yes, giving up in the cold, dark early hours is the easier path in that moment.  But given all the moments in the day, learning how to not give into my primal urge to stay warm and sleep more, creates a much easier and enjoyable day. And yes, the quote by David Swenson always rings out in my head every time I feel myself wanting to drift back into a sleepy haze “I’ve never regretted getting up to practice, but I have regretted not”.  Works. Every. Time

Photo Credit

Book Review: Taking the Leap by Pema Chodron

Taking the LeapIn a word: her best.  I loved the ease and practicality of this book.  I feel that the book gives just the right amount of theory with an equal dose of “how to”.  Some take aways from the book are:

1.  She had a great analogy of how humans are like little kids with a case of poison ivy.  When we feel discomfort, like the itch of a rash, we instantly need to escape from it.  To scratch if you will.  We spend a lot of time trying to escape our reality by trying to scratch our way to feeling better.  And you all know what happens when you scratch the poison ivy rash.

She then takes this analogy further into the Buddhist idea of Shenpa (or getting hooked).  She explains it as feeling discomfort and then spiraling into patters that we desperately try to escape.  It is a chain reaction where something, your thing, gets you and then the kicking in of the pattern you have with dealing with (or not dealing with it in this case).  Somebody says something, an addiction tempts you, a relationship dynamic kicks in… know what I’m getting at. They are those moments in life that you really feel that you have no control and watch yourself almost as a third person keep demonstrating the same behavior over and over again

2.  The importance of pausing between stimulus and your reaction.

3.  Be honest with yourself via:

    1. Listening to your natural intelligence,
    2. Show a natural warmth to yourself and others, and
    3. Remain open to people, experience and yourself.

4.  If you can drop your story line of judgement or predictions, this lessens the Shempa…it reduces the ease of which you get hooked or set off and allows you to remain in the present moment.

5.  Meditation is not a striving but a way to relax.  You have what you need already, and meditation is there to help you see that rather than convert you into something better or new.

6.  Make friends with yourself and be OK with things as they are.  If you can make friends with yourself, have compassion for yourself, then you can have compassion for others.  This is demonstrated in 3 steps:

    1. Maitri–loving kindness towards all living beings as well as trusting oneself.
    2. Act from the heart towards others
    3. Put others before you and expect nothing in return.

7.  Tonglen is a practice of taking in and sending out.  The idea of taking in the world around you and giving part of yourself back. It removes the “all about me syndrome”

Those main points are ones that really stuck with me.  To sum up, this direct quote from the hard cover book (p.86) really spoke directly to me after my experiences in Mysore, India when studying at the Ashtanga Yoga Research Center (KPJAYI).  I’ve been there two times in the past year and each time I’ve gone, I can’t believe the level of ego, unfriendliness and self centeredness by the majority of the Ashtanga Yoga students.  All of those hours on the mat and listening to Sharath teach yet they go right back to “I’m the center of the universe” mode after they roll up their mat.  Pema’ writes:

“I’ve known many people who have spent years exercising daily, getting massages, doing yoga, faithfully following one food or vitamin regimen after another, pursuing spiritual teachers and different styles of meditation, all in the name of taking care of themselves.  Then something bad happens to them and all those years don’t seem to have added up to the inner strength and kindness for themselves that they need to relate with what’s happening.  And they don’t add up to being able to help other people or the environment.  When taking care of ourselves is all about me, it never gets at the unshakable tenderness and confidence that we’ll need  when everything falls apart.  When we start to develop maitri for ourselves, unconditional acceptance of ourselves, then we’re really taking care of ourselves in a way that pays off.  We feel more at home with our own bodies and minds and more at home in the world.  As our kindness for ourselves grows, so does our kindness for other people”

That was the big take home.  I’ll be posting up more on Mysore and my experiences there this year but her writing in the above paragraph was my mindset as I walked around the dusty streets of India very perplexed at the overall atmosphere of a so called yoga shala.

You can get her book here on Amazon and I’d be interested to know your thoughts or point of view or how it helped you.

You are in your process of development, but have you included those around you?

Screen Shot 2013-03-22 at 12.37.01 PMYour work, their problem?

Just as you are adapting to your new self, so are those around you. They have known you in a certain context and some will need time to adapt.  I say some because there will be those people who support you completely in what you are doing. There will be others who are pretty much indifferent but with whom you can maintain the same relationships.

However, there will be some people in your life who will have a harder time with your change.

Your work and dedication has brought about positive results in your life; however, for others, it can bring up insecurities about how they live their own lives. They see you doing the hard work that they have neglected and may resent you for it. This resentment will most likely not come in the form of them telling you directly but rather in increased distance (either emotional or physical), difficult or awkward conversations, anger and perhaps even envy or jealousy.

The importance of being inclusive

These interactions are part of your environment (the elephant’s path) and if not handled properly, strongly negative ones can and will halt your progress.   In some cases, your root activity (or the time investment needed) will spark dialogue, questions and even criticisms. In other cases, the final product that you are becoming will be a sticking point for people.   Regardless if their interactions with you are extremely positive, neutral and/or what you perceive as negative, the questioning, looks and sometimes odd comments are most likely coming from a place of love and not resistance.

Therefore, just as you have been treating yourself with kindness, patience and honesty, the same has to be applied to those around you. The old adage of “do unto others…” needs to become your guiding light as you continue with your personal development, educate those around you and keep your elephant path clear.

How you would like to be seen, treated and accepted is exactly how you need to show up to others.

The power of including others

The easy thing to do would be to ignore them, give in to them, be defensive, angry and perhaps even end the relationship. This is a reaction. But all of your hard work has taught you to be with difficult situations (and this includes people) and it is here that you can now choose a beneficial response that not only helps you but heals and maintains your relationship.

As we mentioned in Chapter Seven, you are moving to the future and building upon the great person that you already are rather than tearing yourself down and reinventing yourself. This involves bringing those in your life with you.   It may feel like more work in the beginning, but in the long run it is very fruitful to have those closest to you be a part of one of your life’s greatest achievements.

Sadly, this can be easier said than done at times.

There will be people who will make your life very difficult and will refuse to accept what it is that you are doing.  Therefore, it is important to recognize that you are unable to control what they do, and only capable of controlling how you show up to them and of choosing a beneficial response (rather than a hurtful reaction).

The following questions may to help ground you in the process:

  • Am I basing my reaction on what I know or what I think? (There is a big difference. Make sure that you are operating from a place of truth with evidence rather than your own thoughts and invented scenarios.)
  • Am I looking for acceptance? Does it matter that they don’t accept me?
  • Do I accept them as they are?
  • Do I exhibit the behaviors and attitudes towards them that I would like them to show towards me?
  • Do I (or could I) include them in my root activity or supporting behaviors?
  • Do I show them that I am making time for them despite my change and personal development?
  • My efforts as of late have been completely inwards.  Am I being self-centered?
  • Can I show them the attention that they perhaps feel has been taken away?
  • Am I taking myself too seriously all of the time?

For you

Personal development does not happen on an island.  As you move through it, are you balancing your life or simply making it more imbalanced?

If you enjoyed this post, it is an excerpt from the final chapter of my new book, Creating your personal change: how to do it everyday and thrive”.  You can order it on Amazon.  Enjoy.

Designing your future

Roberto Salazar recently left a successful career teaching technology overseas in international schools.  After studying in Spain and returning to his native Ecuador, he has started his own company, Kikenyo, as a 3D graphic artist.  I had the chance to talk with him about what it took to make such a change, what were some of his challenges as well as moments that have made him proud.  Enjoy

roberto photoIgnite Change (IC)–Your new life direction has a lot of changes: countries, careers, working to studying, self employed, etc. How did it all start? What was it that pushed you in this new direction?

I think the number one reason had to be boredom. Once you start waking up in the morning and your realize your day will be very similar to the previous one then you start questioning yourself, “Do I really want to do this for the rest of my life”

When I changed directions I was 33 years old, I enjoyed my teaching job, it wasn’t bad, kids were great, environment was professional but I guess I was simply bored of teaching computers to middle-schoolers. Same questions, similar situations, similar subjects, similar problems. Even though I was able to come up with creative projects and lessons they had to be aimed at teaching 14 years-olds so that limited the “crazy” things I had in my mind.

I changed careers because I was bored of what I was doing and I’ve always wanted to know more about computer graphics so i applied to a school in Valencia, Spain, got accepted and went to study computer graphics related to the 3D world.

IC–What initial fears did you have and how did you still manage to take action in the face of your apprehensions/fears?

That I was not smart enough or creative enough to become a 3D artist, and to tell you the truth I still am (even though I am doing great in my new business). I think creativity is a hard field to delve into, many people are very quick to criticize your work and in Spain I experienced this firsthand with the worst professor I’ve had in my life.

The class was labeled “creativity” and we had to come up with 3 different “creative projects”. Initially I was excited to work on it, and it was hard, but the professors destructive criticism towards my work (and others as well) was crushing. I was scared, disappointed, and asked myself “what have I gotten into now? I’m never gonna make it out in the real world if I cannot make it here in class”.

I soon came to realize that I had to continue, that there was no way back at this point. I didn’t care about creativity, I was more focused on learning the 3D software that I was passionate about so I pushed my horrible experience in the creativity class away from my brain. Eventually there was another creativity class and on this one I scored a 9.5/10 with a different professor.

I think what I want to say is that there will be lots of negative people when you make that career change, and negative people that want to drag you and your ideas down.  This you must ignore and continue with the goal you have in mind.

IC–You spoke in the last question about how you faced fear and a sense of “I can’t do this”, but is there a time in the beginning (or anytime really) that you really felt, “wow, I can do this?” 

I finished my studies in November 2011 and came back to Ecuador to look for something in the 3D world.  I couldn’t find anything right away.  I interviewed with a few companies but no one would call me back so I had to go into substitute teaching because I was completely broke.

Then in February this huge construction company called me in to interview and they offered me a temporary job creating 3D graphics for their engineering projects. I started and have not stopped.

They gave me an opportunity, and I did not waste it. I designed the excavation 3D model of the new Ecuadorian oil refinery. It was a competition between companies of who proposed the best solution to the government and we won meaning my 3D graphics were everywhere in the presentation. It was amazing because then I knew I could do this, I will do this and I am good at it. This was in June of 2012.

I was happy, but I had to keep going so I continued with the constructive sequence of the subway station for the new Quito Subway. This video has been the best I have ever created so far.

IC–You went from an employee to self employed. What’s been the biggest reward and challenge in this?

When I was employed at a school,  I worked on a given schedule.  It was 7 – 3 pm job but I still had to do planning outside normal work hours, but we had months off for summer and other holidays. Now I have to work whenever I need to complete a project.

For example, I was working yesterday, Sunday, until 4:30 pm in one of the offices of this construction company. Sometimes I stay until 3 a.m. rendering the final product and there are days where I an take the entire morning off. I like it, I get to choose when I work and then again, I love creating 3D worlds so I don’t really mind working on huge projects.

IC–What has changed in how you view the future in regards to your work, money and planning?

I think the most important thing where I have evolved is that I don’t have to do it all. Inside the classroom, you, the teacher, had to do everything. I had to teach, discipline students, write tests, grades, create projects, etc etc etc. And I started thinking about this in my new projects but they were so big that I soon realized I needed to hire other people to help me out. And I did. So now I have about 5 people working with me in these awesome projects, and its great. They are amazing artists and I get to bring them together working all in the same direction.

This short experience has given me a vision to where I want to take my company. I am currently building my own studio that will house many artists under my roof.

IC–Hindsight is 20/20 so looking back, is there something you would have done differently? What is one moment/decision/action that stands out that makes you really proud?

Back in November this huge construction company offered me a stable job  (I had been working as a contractor). I declined the job and I at the moment I was scared about my decision because it would have been a great job BUT I am so glad I did it. Since then I have managed to get 2 other huge clients and I get to work in my studio here in my own house, I get to take naps in the afternoon and work in my PJs! Love it!

IC–Last question, if you had somebody come to you in a career that they wanted to change, but were afraid to move into action, what would you tell them?

Of course they have to go for the change BUT plan it. Look for a program that will help you achieve this goal, talk to them, and communicate consistently. Have enough money saved up to help you get there. Choose something you are passionate about, that you are proud of, and that will become part of you eventually.  Do this and you will never look back again into your previous life.

I hope you enjoyed the interview.  If you would like a FREE copy of my book (Creating your Personal Development: A guide to doing it everyday), it is available for the next 24 hours on Amazon without charge.  Enjoy it and please leave a review.  

Putting together the puzzle of yourself

I’ve known Danny Neville for almost 10 years and have witnessed a very talented teacher, cook and human being undergo a meaningful and profound life change.  Here he is in his own words to tell you about it.

Ignite Change (IC)–Obviously you knew that you were gay long before people in your life did. What was it like knowing you were homosexual but had to keep it a secret? How did your relationship change with this dual identity over time?

Danny Neville (DN)–Like many other people, I knew I was gay in some form or other for a very long time. I also knew that this was not something I could ever let out. From the time I was a young boy, I was aware that some of the thoughts and feelings I had were “wrong” or “unacceptable.”  The TV shows I watched, games I played, and choices I made were not the norm for boys of my age. Up until around my mid-20’s I don’t think I really believed that I was keeping a secret from anyone. My feelings of attraction to men were so normal to me that I assumed it was something that all guys experienced but didn’t share openly because it was unacceptable.

As I grew up and experienced life on my own, I slowly realized that I was, in fact, different from most men in my life, and that’s when I began to hide from the truth more actively. I didn’t date (and hadn’t for a long time), I avoided all conversations about sex and relationships, and surrounded myself with people who allowed me to be myself without asking questions that had anything to do with my sexual identity.

Living with the secret of my sexuality was a constant force whirring inside of me, and one that I managed to deal with quite effectively. On the outside I was living my life to the fullest by traveling, enjoying my career, and surrounding myself with amazing friends and family. On the inside, I was constantly testing the waters…monitoring every situation in case it turned in a way that I didn’t want to go, planning exit strategies, avoiding certain topics, situations or people. Keeping the secret began to eat away at my spirit. My energy was divided, almost as if living in a continuous ‘fight or flight’ mode. The guilt of lying to the people I loved was particularly draining.

(IC)  What limited you from “coming out” during other times in your life? Did you almost once but then decide not to?

I finally came out when I was 29 years old, but I remember one specific moment that I felt the flood gates crack a year or two earlier. I had admitted to myself that I had some strong feelings for a man in my life, although he never knew about it. I had just seen him for what I thought would be the last time, when I received a letter from a close female friend where she expressed interest in pursuing a relationship with me. I was heartbroken about both situations; by not being able to follow my heart, and for lying to my friend by saying “I’m just not interested” rather than being able to tell her the truth.

This happened at work, and I immediately went to see a close friend. I could feel the tears and pain surfacing and needed to talk. As chance would have it, she was busy with a group of students at that moment, so I sat in the back of her classroom and regained my composure. I think that if my friend had been alone at the time, I wouldn’t have been able to stop myself from telling her everything. Instead, I took strength from being close to her and returned to my empty room where I broke down crying in my classroom supply closet (yes, actually in a closet…), allowing myself that one moment of heartache before burying it all away once again.

(IC)  What prompted you to “come out”? Was it an event? A person? Just time?

I think it was all of the above, but the most important catalyst was a person. I fell madly in love with a guy who had become a close friend, and whom I thought also shared the same feelings that I did. In the end, we had a short but intense relationship, after which we were separated by our career choices, and moving to separate continents. Although I was 29 years old at the time, the feelings I had were similar to what I’ve heard described in many teen fiction novels. I will always be grateful to this individual for his friendship, his empathy, and his guiding hand.

(IC)  How did you change as a person now that you could be your true self?

The road to personal acceptance was rocky at times. After coming out, I still had a fair bit of work ahead of me. Telling friends and family was one piece, but developing a level of comfort with myself was something more unexpected. As I was coming out, I was in the process of starting a new job in a new country. This allowed me to truly make an attempt at starting fresh. I remember in the first days of orientation we had a new faculty dinner. I had quickly made friends with two amazing women, and one of them asked me if I had a girlfriend. This question, one that would have caused extreme anxiety a year before (and triggered my ‘fight or flight’ mode), I was able to answer honestly. It wasn’t easy for me, but it was so wonderful to be able to say, “No, actually, I’m gay.”

The surprising thing to me at the time was how the conversation flowed completely naturally after that. The Earth did not crumble; the girls did not look at me with disgust and walk away. I told them I was gay and they barely reacted to the news.

Being true to myself has allowed me to live a richer life, sharing more of myself with those I care about. I no longer cower from conversations, filter the events I attend, or make excuses for my behaviors and actions. I have been able to move on with living my life, focusing more time on the things that are important to me than using that energy to hide from…well, from myself.

(IC)  What was the hardest thing about the process? What surprised you (positive or negative or both)?

The hardest part was telling my friends and family. I did it all fairly quickly. Within about 3 months of my first gay kiss I had told all of my closest friends and my immediate family. The first person I ‘told’ I didn’t actually say any words. I couldn’t. I was at a wedding reception and asked a close friend to dance. I held her in my arms (probably much tighter than necessary) and cried on her shoulder. She told me that everything was going to be OK and that she knew why I was crying and that she loved me. One down; a million to go.

With each ‘telling’ it became a little easier. Admittedly, each time began with my own tears (for the first little while, anyway). But each time also ended with a huge, tight, loving hug and the most supportive words I could’ve imagined. I guess that’s the part that surprised me the most. This huge secret that I’d kept buried so deep for so long was being met with comments like, “So what?” or “It’s no big deal,” or “You’re still the same person.”

(IC)  What are you most proud of? Any thing that you wish you did differently?

I guess I’m most proud of the way I live my life today. I’ve maintained the friendships I had before coming out, and I’ve met a lot of new and wonderful people since. I’ve participated in Pride events, gay sports, and many discussions on what it was like to be a gay kid. I have a beautiful, kind, supportive, and completely amazing partner who I adore. He reminds me everyday that being honest with myself was the most important decision I ever could have made.

As for things that I wish I’d done differently, there aren’t many. I wish I’d been more prepared and levelheaded when I told my parents (I was a blubbering fool, barely able to get the words out). I wish there had been more support networks and gay role models to look up to when I was a kid (growing up, my image of a gay man was certainly not the man I am today).

Some people ask if I wish I’d come out sooner. My answer to that is that I came out when I was ready.

(IC) What would you offer to other people unsure about how to move forward and be their true selves?

My advice is to let your own floodgates open. Start writing down your thoughts and feelings. Say the words out loud to yourself. Talk to a loved one or counselor. At first, you’ll probably notice that you talk or write for what seems like hours. Keeping your emotions buried only lasts for a limited amount of time before things come bubbling to the surface. Letting it out relieves the pressure and allows you the chance to step back and take a look at your life from a different perspective.

Moving forward with your true self is like a puzzle. You have to open the box and dump out all the pieces before you can begin to put it all together.

About Danny Neville

Danny has been an elementary school educator for the past ten years, teaching internationally in Colombia, Egypt, Brazil, and Belgium before returning to Canada this past year. He currently resides in Toronto where he is teaching grade three and very happily living with his partner and best friend, Matthew.