Category Archives: Supporting YOUR Personal Development

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.

The uselessness of New Year’s Eve

The dinosaur that is New Year's EveI can’t stand New Year’s eve.  I get the symbolism and a new start and a time to reflect, but for the very few that actually use it as a tool, it is a more of a lame attempt to talk more talk than actually walk.

If you want to start a change in your life, the last thing you need is a lot of pomp and circumstance and a count down; you’re not jumping off a cliff to impress a girl in Thailand.  Change is gradual and “an easing into” if you will.  If you need the ceremony, then pour a hot bath and slowly slide into it.  That illustrates more about personal change than fireworks, over committal and a hang over.

The other aspect is the showiness so many people feel about announcing it to the world to keep themselves accountable.  I agree that to some extend  sharing your goals with others does help in keeping you on track, but only after you have a well thought out plan.  And in a plan, I mean:

After you have that well established and tested, then invite people into your plan and change.

The bottom line is that you don’t need a magical day nor a movie like send off into your personal endeavors.  It simply takes some ambition, a backbone and tenacity mixed in with some humour, patience and curiosity.

Photo Credit

A collection of asanas


The dropback, coming up and walking the hands towards the ankles

Taking the Leap by Pema Chodron

I’m reading “Taking the Leap” by Pema Chodron right now and I think that is my favorite book by her.  I’ve found that many of her teachings, like many meditation teachers, that the same points keep being mentioned over and over again.  Points such as being a perfectionist, process over product, self judgement and how all people struggle with many of the same issues.  As a yoga practioner, I like repetition in teachings as I firmly believe this is how you learn something well and go deeper.  I like to have access to the same activities each day be it an asana (yoga position) or meditation to reflect the quality of my mind back to me .

The opposite (and often more popular) is an ever changing  yoga class based on the whims of a the teacher or large variations in time or styles of meditation in my opinion keeps you at a very superficial level and you then meet people who claim to have practiced for 10 years but are really just beginners in their abilities and self understanding.

In this book, Pema has a great quote that reflects this idea of learning and teaching that says “You will reach a point where you see your life as a teacher and not as a burden“.   I like this a lot.  Each day, like a yoga practice or meditation, you face it, learn from it and go deeper and deeper.  It is not about just gritting your teeth and getting through it, but rather keeping present and accept that you are there to learn.

The link to the book is here on Amazon

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.