Welcome!

Chris_Kann_Pier

Welcome to From Type A to Namaste™!

For many people, living at a hectic pace is a way of life.  Sometimes it is the reality of a life focused on making a living, running a household, raising children, staying healthy, maintaining relationships, and an endless list of details that come with that.  And for some of us, whether it is our wiring or learned in our environment, it quickly becomes the only thing we know.  Keeping an unending “to do list” can become a source of a vacillating sense of accomplishment and overwhelm…..we revel in the days that we can conquer tasks, and struggle with overwhelm on the days that we can’t achieve closure.  Often described as “Type A”, these are the people you give challenging tasks to because they face all of them undaunted, and will settle for nothing less than success in each one.  Words like “workaholic” or “achiever” come to mind.

With this frenetic lifestyle comes a busy mind, many distractions, and often a disconnect from what a person is really thinking and feeling.  The schedule is the focus, and somewhere along the way, an individual can lose themselves in what they really want. They can get glimpses of a different pace and thought process on occasion…on a long plane ride, while on vacation, or while sitting at one of their children’s activities……but the schedule and list return and so does the race. And the ongoing events provide enough distraction to make even considering whether this is OK almost impossible.  In many cases, they actually can’t imagine another way of being, and there is enough validation of accomplishment along the way to cause a recommitment to this way of life and they continue on.  Soon, it becomes a way they define themselves and they are attached to this self-identity.

But is this a sustainable way of being?  It almost inevitably takes us away from knowing ourselves and in most cases requires or creates unhealthy habits in order to sustain.  The challenge is in redefining an identity not tied to accomplishing the tasks and managing the schedule and focused instead on looking inside……on what things we are doing because we want to, and what we are doing because we have to.  Each person has their own needs to support and care for themselves, and provide for those in their care, but what if everything else were considered optional?  Or what if life’s circumstances….illness, injury, job change…..made it necessary to make a change in the number of commitments you were able to make to others?

At some point, it’s worth considering if this is really allowing you to live a life that is authentically you; one that gives you the opportunity to fully enjoy and appreciate the relationships and life you have created for yourself.  Have you given yourself the option to consider something different?  Maybe you have, and the thought of this change and the resulting redefinition of yourself terrifies you.  It’s understandable……re-considering everything that we think makes us who we are is frightening for anyone.

If any of this resonates with you or makes you curious, then join me in this discussion here on this site……the journey From Type A to Namaste.  Those of you who are “Type A’s” know who you are and in some cases, you wear that label with pride!  You might not even have any interest in making a change.  But I hope you’ll join me in the consideration of thinking about things differently.  As I begin a journey to redefine living a happy, healthy life……somewhat by chance and somewhat by choice….I’ll share thoughts and reflections about the ups and downs, opportunities and challenges, joys and frustrations of a life transition. I invite you to join me.

 

Make Leaving for Vacation Less Stressful

SittingonDockReadingBook0814I am leaving for a week of vacation tomorrow. I will not have access to the internet or cell phone coverage for the majority of the time I am gone. For many of us with Type A tendencies, the anticipation of these circumstances can be downright stressful! While this special time with my family is something I have been looking forward to for a long time, the preparation for taking time out of the office can feel arduous!

As we head into the last few weeks of the summer vacation season, I wanted to share some tips I use to make the process of leaving for and returning from vacation a bit more graceful. With a bit of forethought and pre-planning, you can make the vacation itself truly a break from work, and keep the mental “to do list” out of your head.

 

Before You Go

Alert key customers, team members and vendors that you will be gone.
To better manage the expectations of those that you communicate with regularly, let them know you will be away from your office. This will remind them to ask for any information they need from you before you leave so that you will not return to an in-box full of unfulfilled requests. You can even use this as an excuse to reach out to customers to encourage them to move up deadlines to complete work before you depart, or push them back until after your return when planning can go uninterrupted.

Create a real or virtual folder of key documents to have accessible
The “What if” stories that run through your mind before you leave on vacation can make it feel hardly worth the effort to be away from the office. The anticipation of what might need to be addressed while you are gone can create unneeded worry. Creating a folder with key documents from active projects that you can bring with you can help you feel prepared to address issues in an emergency. Online cloud storage or sites like Dropbox can also be used to store documents virtually so they are accessible while traveling. Truth be told, the majority of the time, you will never even peek at these items, but knowing you have them accessible “just in case” can lessen the anxiety.

Leave a list on your desk of key items to address upon your return
The best thing you can do when you have decided to take time away is to really allow yourself to check out mentally and enjoy the vacation with no distractions. In order to truly leave the office behind, create a short list of the key “to do” items that need to be addressed when you return and leave it front and center on your desk so that it will be easy to pick up where you left off after your vacation. Knowing this list is there doing the work of holding your priorities in place during your absence will allow you to let the concerns of the office drift from your mind more easily.

Upon Your Return

Schedule in a 1-2 day re-entry period for integration
Anticipate now that you will want to gift yourself with 1-2 days to ease back into your work routine when you return. This soft landing can be planned in advance by limiting what you schedule during those first days back at your desk. Create space for the time needed to open mail, get updates from employees, and bring yourself up to speed at a kinder pace.

Plan to address small tasks first to bring your brain back up to speed
Expecting to jump into the deep end your first day back at the office is unrealistic, so plan to take on some of the more manageable tasks on your action item list first. This will help you to feel that you have actually accomplished something immediately after returning, and hopefully prevent the common tendency to feel overwhelmed when trying to catch up on everything that occurred during your break all at once.

Use your refreshed perspective to infuse new energy and creativity into your work
Being in a new location and taking on the adventure that comes with a vacation can activate our creativity and allow us to see things from a new perspective. Taking ourselves out of our daily routine makes it easier to see new solutions to places we have been stuck. Use this time of fresh creativity to bring new thinking to your work and productivity, and to re-visit problems or topics that might have stymied you before the break. You might surprise yourself with what a fresh set of eyes helps you to see.

Don’t let your vacation days go unused because it seems like too much work to step away from the office! Use these helpful tips to create an easy vacation transition and to truly come back to the office refreshed and recharged.

Peace in the Sky

2014-12-29 03.48.26Recently I was fortunate to visit Cape Town, South Africa for a family vacation.  Traveling to Cape Town from the Midwestern US is not a minor commitment.  With layovers and time zone changes, it took the better part of two days to get to our final destination.  Our time in Cape Town was nothing short of spectacular.  Its scenic setting along the South African coast, sitting in the shadow of Table Mountain, creates Instagram-worthy photos in every direction.  There is much to explore in its rich culture, and the people of South Africa were welcoming and genuinely kind.  Our trip included many noteworthy moments and side trips including touring wineries, a visit to Robben Island, and an African safari.  But what has been interesting, as I have digested the entire experience, is that one of the most memorable experiences of the trip for me was the actual travel getting to and from South Africa itself.

In the past, I have had some fairly significant experiences of anxiety related to travel.  Not only has it sometimes been hard for this Type A to remove myself from my office for any significant period of time, but I have previously been especially uncomfortable on planes.  So preparing for a trip with this kind of extended air time took some preparation.  I worked with my various coaches and teachers on relaxation techniques and meditations  to prepare me, but also had calming teas, mints and essential oils at the ready!  I felt that keeping my mind busy would also be key, so I came with books, magazines, and an iPod full of podcasts to help pass the time.  I was as ready as I could be to board that first flight!

What was a great surprise to me, once I was settled in my seat, was that I quickly realized what an absolute gift this time was for me.  There were movies to watch, music to listen to, yummy meals being served to me, and the calming white noise of the big jet taking us gracefully through the night sky.  When I surrendered into the slower pace of the long flight, I found true peace in the sky.  Over the course of my flights to and from South Africa, I watched 7 movies. I have to confess that I am not sure that I watched 7 movies in the entire prior year!  Because of the necessity for this long period of being seated, I allowed myself to take the time and just relax and enjoy like I would not have done if I was sitting at home.

On the final leg of our 14+ hour flight home to Chicago, seated two seats away was a woman who before takeoff was taking the flight attendant to task for the lack of WIFI on the plane.  “How am I supposed to get any work done on this long flight”, she complained, “This is a work day and I have work to do”.  The flight attendant calmly apologized and explained that this flight did not have WIFI, but that in the future they were working on having access on all their flights.  It was at that moment that I realized I really had embraced this “Namaste moment”.  If there had been a WIFI password, I did not want to know it!  I had movies left to watch and podcasts still to listen to, and the WIFI-free flight was my last opportunity for awhile to remain unconnected, relaxed and indulge in movies, music and magazines until we landed, if I chose to.

Amidst all the amazing things about our trip, I consider the time on the flights some of my favorite.  They certainly provided the biggest surprise to me: the surprise of how much I enjoyed the peaceful quiet in the air.  And as I looked over at the woman two seats away and saw her sleeping and later enjoying a movie during the flight, I thought “Fantastic!  She finally surrendered to the WIFI-free peace in the sky.”

Exiting the Building

Over the years I have had many “plans” for how to create balance in my life.  As a business owner, I promised myself that I would take off every Friday afternoon, or that I would take one day a week to do non-work-related activities.  But none of those plans ever worked.  Not even close.  There was always work that needed to be done that I deemed to be more important than walking out of the office and changing gears.

20140825_081119What I have finally figured out is that the only thing that works is if I formally schedule time to disengage.  And even more than that, I need to “exit the building”…..I need to leave my office, leave the house, leave the city, even leave the country!  When I physically leave the spaces where I have “roles” that I need to play, then I can truly relax, reflect, and get some perspective.

Ironically, leaving that space has always been difficult for me.  As much as I know I will benefit from stepping away, the amount of planning and preparation it takes for me to officially “exit the building” takes a lot of energy.  The 1-2 days before a trip or vacation are not the days that I recommend choosing to spend time with me.  I am focused, stressed and anxious, making sure that things are in order so that I can be assured that all will run smoothly in my absence.  I am getting better at it, but it has taken consciously observing how much I fight that separation to get myself to  change my patterns.

The most simple “exit” plans are to have regular gatherings with friends that get me to step away and change gears.  I have come to really enjoy my quarterly “girls day out” with a dear friend, and my monthly “bead” or “tea and tarot” night with girlfriends.  This is something that until recently, I did not commit to putting on the calendar.  There is ALWAYS work to do that would give me a ready-made excuse to remain in my office churning through the insurmountable piles of paperwork and e-mails.  But I know that I am ultimately more effective when I return, and feeling more connected to friends who are a key source of grounding for me.  It took some convincing.  I used to be the person who would say “Must be nice that those other people can take time to do something fun.”  But I had to face the reality that this was a choice I had the control to make.  And now I cancel out on those commitments far less often than I used to.

Even more important have been the formal, extended departures such as our yearly trip to Canada, and a recent spiritual retreat I attended led by two of my teachers.  There is really no replacement for this type of intentional effort to put yourself in a completely different energy, with no specific goal except to spend time getting clear and centered.  Make the decision to do this once and I promise you will find it is far easier to put it in your schedule every time you decide to do it in the future.

I am getting ready to head out for what has become somewhat of an annual Fall 3-day getaway with close friends.  Yes, there is much work to do in this office, and I am not really sure how I will complete what needs to be done before I leave.  But I’ll figure it out.  The importance of reconnecting with myself and friends is too important.  So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to make like Elvis and “exit the building.”  I invite you to make your own plans to do the same.

Why the Cover Photo?

20130724_205355Over the course of the last year, I have begun to think very specifically about my desire, or more importantly my need, to make a shift in the pace of my life.  What I found is that often photos capture moments that represent the energy or memory of  a time that I felt present, connected, and peaceful.  This photo was one of those moments…..on a dock in Canada, surrounded by a huge expanse of sky and a vista of raw, beautiful nature.

But that moment almost didn’t happen.

My husband bought a cabin in Canada a number of years ago to nurture and pursue his love of nature and fishing, and I had no plans to ever go there.  It is accessible only by boat, it is 45 minutes from the nearest city (on the roughest roads you have ever been on), and there is sparse, if any, internet service.  Why in the world would a Type A, wired person like me want to go there?  I really felt this was a “boy’s retreat” that I would never cross the threshold of.

In 2012 in an attempt to escape daily life while recovering from surgery, I agreed to go to Canada.  I could not go out in public in my city anyway, due to bruising from dental surgery, so off we went.  What I found there was a pure, simple, peaceful energy that can only be available when you work that hard to go to that remote of a location!  If you allow yourself to embrace the unique immersion in nature there, you can feel it in your soul.  The skies are endless, the Eagles soar above, and the only sounds you hear are the waves lapping on the shore, the loons calling at night….and your thoughts.

For those of us who have a hard time stepping away from the crazy pace of every day life, relocation to a place where you have no other choice but to slow down is often a valuable option.  So we returned to Canada in Summer of 2013 with friends for a trip filled with great memories.  One of our last nights there, before dinner, I walked down to our weathered, off-kilter dock to take some deep breathes and try to make a mental picture of the scene around me.  Thankfully my friend Amanda came down to get me and captured this “Namaste Moment” for me.  I keep it as my screen saver on my phone to remind me again and again to occasionally step away, take a breath, and look at the beauty around me.

(With that intention, the Gallery on this site is included to represent visual snapshots of some of those moments….of “Type A” focus and intensity, and moments of “Namaste”, when you recognize the divinity and peace of your surroundings.)

 

Namaste

namasteWhen I ask people if they know what the word namaste means, most know this as the closing blessing of a yoga class.  And while this is generally true, that’s not the most important thing to know about the word, nor does it give you true indication of what the meaning is, or why someone might say it to you.

There are many different ways I have seen namaste defined, but most commonly and simply, it means:  “The divine light in me honors the divine light in you.”  It is an acknowledgment of respect for another and their unique energy and presence.  You might have seen people use it as a gesture of thanks, welcome or gratitude, paired with joining both hands over the heart, palms together, with fingers pointed to the sky.  For whatever reason, I have always found it to be a very graceful, peaceful way for two people to acknowledge each other, whether as equals or as teacher and student.

Five years ago, I didn’t know what the word meant.  I hadn’t had people in my life that regularly used this acknowledgement of another, and I really thought it was just something that yoga teachers and students said.  So when I learned the true meaning, I was quite taken with it.  But interestingly, at nearly the same time, I had someone tell me that namaste was a word that you had to “earn” the right to say…..that you had to have achieved a certain level of spiritual mastery to be able to say it or to sign an e-mail with it.  I found this completely baffling, and contrary to what I understood the meaning to be in the first place!  While I knew namaste to be an acknowledgement of another that is free of ego, this seemed to be an opinion that was full of ego and elitism!

So I made it a personal mission to make sure that I really understood what this word meant, to me and to other people.  What became clear to me was that for the majority of people, they really felt the connection to the energy of honoring another person….to acknowledge that they “see” them and meet them as an equal divine being.  Beautiful.  But I soon realized that it wasn’t that part of this word that I connected to, but instead, the honoring of the divine light in myself.

It has always been easy for me to see the divine in others.  I see the beauty and talents that others have that awe and move me, so saying namaste to another had always been about that for me.  I ultimately realized that the real gift was for me to see and honor the divine in ME.  I am just like so many of us who see our own flaws first, and don’t see the divinity in every detail of who we are.  So acknowledging the divine in myself was more challenging.  But I am working on it, and see the perfection and value in the honoring of all aspects of Self, and striving to see that divinity every day.

In January of 2014, I “saw” a tatoo of the word namaste in my third eye and realized that I wanted to have a reminder of it in the form of a tatoo.  And when my daughter called me less than a week later to tell me she was thinking about getting a tatoo, I knew that it was time.  With a bit of nervous trepidation, I got my Namaste tatoo on the inside of my ankle and I love it. After so much reflection on the word Namaste, it has special meaning to me and my tatooo reminds me each day to honor the divinity in myself.