At work today, I was saying hi to a colleague who I love and have grown close with over the years (who also happens to read my blog … HI!! :) and she, in discussing my writing, asked me if I was trying to tell her I was an alcoholic in my last blog post.
Which is a super fair question and one that I have actually asked myself. The pure fact that I felt the need to even think about the role drinking plays in my life made me wonder if that made me an alcoholic.
It doesn’t. And, by definition, I am not an alcoholic.
To be an alcoholic (by definition) denotes a dependency. A prioritization. My friends who are mothers to alcoholics tell me stories of the blind-siding, the masks, the over-powering nature of alcohol in their children’s lives.
Now, before you go thinking I am writing a post to explain why I am not an alcoholic in some gesture of self preservation or reputation – allow me to share the purpose of this post: to connect with you on the idea of strengthening your personal compass.
You know how sometimes you type three letters into Google and the whole question you were wondering auto populates in the search box?
Or how your carpet shows the line created by the door every time it opens?
Or how, when you tell your child no consistently over and over again, they eventually redirect and don’t ask? (If you aren’t there yet – just keep being consistent… I’ll pray for you lol)
Well, your mind works in a kinda similar way. And we can train the mind. We can train the mind to not be the boss of us and – instead – to line up with our values and our motivations.
In yoga, we practice niyamas (disciplines) to strengthen our ability to have a relationship between mind, flesh and spirit so that we don’t just get overthrown by the waves of the world. (This is all very Romans and very James based, if you want to go to line it up with Christian scripture.)
The idea being that by practicing these disciplines (cleanliness, contentment, boundaries, self study and surrender), we don’t become dependent or instruments of something worldly. Instead, we constantly refresh, assess, align, and trust.
Whether you feel like you are constantly trying to recreate a routine or new rules for yourself to meet a goal or whether you are trying to change something but find it hard because of the way the world is, here are some questions (based on the niyamas) you can ask yourself.
- How are you maintaining a sense of clarity in your life?
For me, this goes back to an early comment I made about how – during the months of my divorce – I didn’t drink because I wanted clarity about my emotions. I wanted to know where everything came from. There were other things I did as well – I slept. I sat in the quiet of my apartment. I didn’t just go buy everything I thought I needed, I made a list and waited for the need to come up. I wanted to “hold the line” of who I felt I was and the direction I felt my life was headed.
2. Where do you get your sense of self worth?
When I teach meditation, I instruct my students to inhale a sense of wholeness or completion. I ask them to close their eyes and imagine the goal they have for themselves is met, feel how it feels. Then breathe that in. Over and over and over. One of the most amazing things in my personal life is learning how to call on the sense of completion or worth when I am especially feeling broken and lost. This proves to me that the feeling we work and long for, that feeling we shop and aim for – is actually in us all the time. Bonus points if you want to give gratitude then to a higher power.
3. How do you handle the pressure of change?
Whether you are dealing with the heat of being wrong at work or of learning a lesson in a relationship. Or whether you are dealing with the digestion problems of a bad meal choice or a hangover. Or whether you are in tears, frustrated doing something you really don’t want to do. Or just sweating during an intense work out. IF if if if IF you can realize that the fact this friction is happening is PROOF that change is happening, you can immediately start a gratitude practice in those painful moments. Heat. Pain. is Change. Growth.
When I wrote about finding myself impulsively about to pour a glass of wine (on my birthday eve, a little emotional after dropping my kids at their dads) and realizing I didn’t actually want to because I what I really wanted was to go to bed after a nice hot shower, I saw this as friction. So I prayed into it. And I showed gratitude as the impulse passed.
Was it a big deal to have a glass of wine? No.
Might it have been lovely? Sure.
But it wasn’t what I really wanted, it was just an impulse.
And, going back to the alcoholic question, this is the key –
Notice impulses. Line it up with your motivation in the situation. Your motivation should always line up with your intention – your core character.
And say no if the answer is no.
This is how you strengthen the mind muscle. I love this prayer that “God finds you in the yes that means yes and the no that means no”. If you feel an impulse that is actually contradictory to how you feel or to a goal, one of the coolest ways to handle it is to first show gratitude that you even have that distinguished difference. That is awareness!
AWARENESS IS A GIFT
But the next step, is how you honor the gift.
We must follow what lines up with how we feel and our goals. This sends the right signals to the brain and the body and growth occurs from that place. It’s all learned.
(And if you are wondering about what if your goal or how you feel is negative? Well, that goes back to your intention. Your goals and feelings will always follow what you have set as your intention – so you may need to get your heart right first. Start in Psalms)
OK. Moving on. This is longer than I thought.
4. Who are you, really?
This goes to the idea of “living above reproach”. Do your actions line up with who you claim to be? Can you tell the same story to your friends and your kids? If not, why not? Are you proud of it? How many hats do you switch on and off? Are you comfortable enough with your life and inner compass and how you are living to decide, act, interact and move on?
PS on that point: I love this Glennon quote – it proves this idea that the revolution is in the ability to trust yourself. So much so that you don’t have to explain it to anybody…
5. What is bigger than you?
The yoga teaching is to surrender to God. Maybe, for you, it is to surrender to joy. Or to the feeling of peace. That you are going to let yourself feel those things no matter what. But – this – this is where dependency gets put in check. Because only the things that are bigger than you (in conscious or subconscious ways) get to dictate what you do and how you feel. And, for me, I had to look at it like this –
I am going to try my best
under any circumstances
do what I don’t feel is best for my life.
…For my daughters.
…For my body.
…For my calling.
…For my ability to feel rest.
…For my ability to listen and enjoy my friends.
It is hard to resist the views of the world, and just because you may not be overweight or you may not be an alcoholic or you may not be in debt or you may not be addicted to pain pills – doesn’t mean you should be wreckless.
We have the ability to grow stronger – moment by moment – through small, seemingly insignificant decisions. As a person who used to be so unassertive, I have learned that as you practice “yes when it means yes” and “no when it means no” (even when it seems it would be harmless to just follow along or suck it up or that it won’t really make a big difference), you grow more confident in who you are, in your ability to advocate for yourself, and in your trust that your decision doesn’t need the approval of others –
and you can just take care of yourself.
No matter what.
If you are feeling overwhelmed with impulse and struggling with addiction, please do not be afraid to get help. Here is a link to a National Helpline for Mental Health and Substance Abuse.