Root 2 Shine

Empowering and Inspiring Individuals to Shine Their Brightest

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Truthfulness

We all want the truth. At least that is what we say we want. We want people to be upfront and honest, no holds barred. No guessing tha as to what someone meant, but like Jack Nicholoson in A Few Good Men stated, “You can’t handle the truth.”

Satya, one of the five yamas in Yoga, is all about truthfulness. It is founded on the idea that we are to see and report  observations, thoughts the way that they are, not how we would like to see them. In essence, separate judgements from observations. So why is it that we “can’t handle the truth?”

We all lie if we are honest. Yes, even those little white “lies”. You know the ones. Those lies that in the midst of saying them we know we are lying but our response is so automatic, that we can’t stop ourselves. Maybe it’s to politely decline an invitation to a party by saying we are under the weather when we know in Satya that we are not. Maybe it’s telling someone only a half truth because we feel that if they hear the truth it will crush their feelings.

Practicing satya means coming from a place of asking questions in the following manner:
1. Is it true?
2. Is it necessary?
3. Is it useful?
4. Is it kind?

This holiday season is a great opportunity for us to step into those questions. For us to consider before we speak if our words are true, necessary, useful and kind.

Embrace the Noise

The volume knob gets turned up around the holidays. Family, friends, gatherings, shopping, basically anything that requires you to be around people gets amplified. From Thanksgiving to just after the New Year, it’s undeniable the rise in the noise.

For most of us, it’s a time to reflect on the year that has once again seemingly slipped through our hands if we have not been intentional with our time all the while rushing from here to there to catch up with family and friends that we haven’t seen and trying to figure a way to get it all in and wondering when it will all slow down. When can we find the space and time for things to be quiet?

While finding space to simply be and get away from the crowd is a challenge at this time of the year, there is another challenge and that is to simply embrace the noise. As a parent, I find myself now telling new parents to enjoy those moments of sleepless nights and schlepping a hundred things for a newborn, because those days will fly by. Why embrace the noise? Why embrace the chaos of rushing from here to there?

Because one day, the noise will cease to exist. It’s simply how time operates. The older we get, the crowds thin out. There are fewer parties and people. While in the midst of the noise, embrace the challenge to simply enjoy it. Knowing that one day, when you go to turn up the volume knob, it simply won’t go any higher.

Simply Begin Again

I had great intentions. I had started the blog along with podcast and had stated to myself that I would write at least a blog post a week and one podcast per week. The only thing standing still is the podcast per week. Where and when did I go off track and how do I get back?

There is a phrase in yoga that I often repeat to my students, “When lost, simply begin again.” Whether that is the breath or in the pose, simply begin again.

So often in our lives, when goals are set, we have great intentions. We really do. However, when real life collides with those goals and intentions, a lot of us find ourselves back at square one.

Square one. This is the where our internal dialogue starts getting louder and we often say to ourselves, “why start again?” “See, I told you that you wouldn’t be able to do it”. “Let’s wait until the start of a new year.” Our monkey mind, starts to run wild.

One day turns into one week. One week turns into never. The thought is still there even if on the fringe, but you can’t quite seem to get it back into the game.

Like our breath, like our practice. When lost, simply begin again.

Podcast Interview

Chris Russell, host of the Run Run Live podcast, was kind enough to give me some bandwidth to ramble on about mindfulness, meditation and my practice of teaching yoga to high school students. You can check it out here: Episode 347: Mike Croy and One Breath

Finding Flow

As I watched my 9 year old daughter this weekend in her first tournament of the new campaign with her travel soccer team, I noticed her in the state of flow.Running down the field, scanning for teammates and dodging defenders, she had this look of dogged determination.  Similarly, this past week when I had the opportunity to go and talk to a couple of hundred people about the idea of mindfulness and meditation, I too was in a state of flow. Time seemed to fly by for me so that when I looked up, an hour had quickly gone by.  So what exactly is flow, and how can you find yourself in it?

The term flow is described by positive psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, every movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re pushing your skills to the utmost.”

With the recent Summer Olympic Games it was easy to sit back and watch the artistry and flow that athletes created.  During the event, they were often laser focused, yet seem so relaxed. After the event, whether they had won a medal, set a personal best, or just competed, it often seemed like they were in a fog and had trouble remembering what happened. That is what flow will do to you.

Flow looks like the activity is intrinsically rewarding. This is because the activity that one is engaged meets right at the intersection where their skills are well matched to the task. Flow is more likely to occur when you avoid interruptions like turning your smartphone off and focus on doing just one thing at a time. Not about how many emails you have to respond to, or what’s for dinner. Simply on the activity in front of you. Flow is more likely to happen when you focus on the process and not the end state. Whether it was my daughter playing with new teammates in which the coach told them I just want for you to think of these as practice games because you just started your season last week,Olympians getting a chance to represent their country when those opportunities are so few and far, or me getting a chance to do a couple of presentations, what we all had in common was that time flew and our egos fell way.

There was nothing but the present moment and we absorbed in a dance. A dance that at the end, has us waiting once again for the music to cue up so we can step on the floor again.

One Breath At A Time: Taming Your Monkey Mind To Live In The Moment

Between August 15th – 19th, head over to Amazon and click on the link below to get a FREE copy of my ebook entitled:

One Breath At A Time: Taming Your Monkey Mind To Live In The Moment 

 

DIGITAL_BOOK_THUMBNAIL

This short ebook explores how our daily lives creates stress for our bodies. Stress that is generated because of our monkey minds and in turn, how the practice of mindfulness and meditation can get you to a place where you can to learn to live in the moment. If you have never practiced mindfulness or meditation before, this is a great place to start.

All I ask is that after you read the ebook is that you head over to Amazon and leave a review.

Thanks and enjoy!

Work/Life Blend

One of my favorite yoga classes to go to is called Blend. It is a mix of Vinyasa, which links breath with movement and what they call Slow Burn, which means holding postures that slow the body and focus on the mind. Sometimes the class is more Vinyasa than Slow Burn and sometimes it is vice versa. This blend idea has been on my mind lately as I get set to step back into the school where I am a principal and prepare for another year which is fast approaching.

Blend implies the idea that it is a mash up of things. A mash up of work (career, job, profession, calling) and life (health, family, leisure, spiritual, etc) that at sometimes might be a little more work than life, and sometimes it is a little more life than work. In the end, when you get down to the bottom of it, it all melds together.  I like to visualize this life blend like an ice cream flurry. Sometimes, I get a bigger scoop of ice cream and less of some peanut butter cup and sometimes more peanut butter cup and less ice cream. I know that during my time off from school that it has been a heavy dose of life and not so much work. That will soon shift where work, my kids school and other activities take center stage, and the life segment will be a little less. Nevertheless, my mindset is one of it being a blend instead of balance.

There is a lot of talk about a work/life balance nowadays. A new survey by Groupon of 2,000 people showed that 60 percent of Americans have an unhealthy work-life balance and don’t have enough time in the day to relax. In this instance, balance refers to to that you are supposed to have 50% of your time spent on work and 50% spent on leisure. I like to imagine this balance as someone holding up a plate in each hand with equals bowls of soup making sure not to teeter one way to much so there is no spillage. It seems impossible to be able to keep those plates raised at the same level all of the time.

So how can you blend work and life?   Here are 5 practical tips that you can apply whether you are in the work mode or life mode.

  1. Let Go Of Perfection – Like balance, perfection is a myth. There is always a slight blemish, a corner with a speck of dust, a period not marking the end of a sentence. If you are always waiting for something to be just right, it will never get done.
  2. Unplug – Put the glass slab away. Close the lid on the laptop and step away. We were not meant to be tethered to these devices.
  3. Learn to Say NO – We are constantly bombarded with requests to join this, or volunteer for that. Soon enough there is not enough time in the day for yourself.
  4. Treat Yourself Right – Make time for yourself. If you are always on the go, plugged in and unwilling to settle for less than perfection, you will wind up on the sidelines unable to play in the game of life. Take the time to care for your body and mind by engaging in something that will help you to renergize.
  5. Take a Break –  We were not meant to sit or stand all day doing the same repetitive thing and that is where the value of a break comes in. Stepping away even for a few minutes can help your mind shift and reset.

Blend not balance. That’s where it is at.

The Power of Physically Writing Things Down

This past weekend, I was able to achieve one of my S.M.A.R.T. goals that I had written for 2016. By competing and covering 32 miles over the course of 7 hours and 37 minutes, I was able to complete the goal of registering and completing a 5k run, 10k run, 13. 1 mile run (1/2 marathon), 26.2 mile run (marathon) and an ultra run (any distance over a marathon distance. typically a 50k or more). I did this because I had written the goal down at the beginning of the year, and believe in the power of doing just that.

There was a survey done back in 1953 at Yale University of its graduating class. Of the graduating class, only 3% had actually written down a goal. Following up with that group 20 years later, the 3% that had amassed a net worth greater than 97% of the rest of those that did not write a goal.

While we might tap and flick away on our smartphones or keyboards, in the words of Anais Nin, “If it’s not written down, it doesn’t exist.”

Physically writing things down is not just limited to writing S.M.A.R.T. goals. In fact, there are several benefits of having a physical writing practice.

Benefits of a physical writing practice: 

Benefit #1 – A written goal brings you clarity and focus. While you might have some awesome, amazing ideas rolling around in your head, putting it down on paper gives you something that you can actually see and focus on right in front of you. It is not abstract.

Benefit #2 – Having to actually physically write something down causes you to be more thoughtful in the words you choose. Think about it. If you are just sitting in front of your keyboard or smartphone and you are just clicking and flicking away it is usually just a stream of conscious, and when you are done, you go back and read it and often think…hmm…does this really make any sense? Whereas the process of physically writing it down causes us to be reflective even if for a moment that the word that we are choosing to put down is the most important and clarifying thing that we want to say.

Benefit # 3 – When you are writing things down you are void of distractions. No internet to just pop open and check out something real quick. No Evernote to just copy and paste this idea that we probably won’t get back to. It is just you, a blank piece of paper and your writing utensil of choice.

Benefit # 4 – Physically writing things down is simply better for learning. The process helps you to engage your fine motor skills as well as helping out your memory.

Benefit #5 –  You simply will become a better writer. What you practice, you get stronger at.

Benefits are great, but how do you go about actually starting a writing practice?

     How to start a physical writing practice: 

  • Get something to write on and with to start. It could be a legal pad, notebook, etc. As for a writing instrument you can use a pen, pencil, marker, etc. Make it so that that legal pad or notebook and pen, pencil, or marker will be the only thing that they are used for.
  • Set a timer. Like with starting a mindfulness and meditation practice, start with one. In this instance, instead of one breath, start with one minute. Start a timer, look at a clock and go.
  • Try and commit to write at the same time everyday. For some, it could be first thing in the morning as part of a routine. For others it could be at the end of the day or before you go to bed at night.
  • What to write about? It could be about anything. It could be writing down your S.M.A.R.T. goal. It could be a thought, and idea that you are trying to get some clarity and focus on because just kicking it around in your brain isn’t working. The idea is to just start writing.

Physically writing things down, whether they are S.M.A.R.T. goals, thoughts, or idea have the power to bring clarity and focus to what you want to get done. In a hyperconnected, flick and click type of world, sometimes by simply going back to our roots of what we were first taught in school has the power to move us farther along than the glass brick in our hand or the slab with keys device sitting in front of us.

 

S.M.A.R.T. Goals

A client texted me the other day stating that they were ready for the next step in their journey. My response? ” A ship without ports has no destination.” Similar to their question was my son’s goal that he had written down when he went away to a soccer camp for a week. As I was helping him to clean up his dorm room and separate out what looked like his and his roommate’s, I ran what he had wrote. For the week, he had stated that he wanted to increase the distance and accuracy of his goal kicks. Like most people when writing goals they are general and not very specific. They are not S.M.A.R.T. goals.

S.M.A.R.T. goals are different than most goals that people write. For instance, around 40% of people make New Year’s resolutions. Only about 8% of them are successful.  Why is that? Because, again, the goals they have written are not S.M.A.R.T. goals.

So what are S.M.A.R.T. goals and how can they help you?  They key differences between goals that are too general ( I want to lose weight. I want to get rid of debt) and S.M.A.R.T. goals are that S.M.A.R.T. goals bring structure and accountability to whatever it is that you are trying to accomplish.

S stands for SPECIFIC. The clearer that you become in what it is that you want to accomplish or achieve, the better likelihood you will have of achieving. For instance, stating that you want to lose weight, is not the same nor is it as specific as stating that you want to lose 25 pounds. Additionally, stating I WILL instead of I SHOULD is much more specific and much more powerful. I WILL indicates that you are going to do something whereas I SHOULD sounds like a good idea and maybe one day I will get around to it.

M stands for MEASURABLE. When you reach the specific goal what will you see, feel, hear when you reach your goal? If you are trying to lose 25 pounds let’s say, you will see the new weight on the scale. You may feel that your clothes are looser. You might hear from others comments on what have you been doing and they are noticing the change.

A stands for ATTAINABLE. While your goal might be specific and measurable, a key question is to consider whether or not it is really attainable. Can you commit the time, effort, and resources needed in order for you to achieve your goal? An example of this is when I wanted to enroll in a yoga teacher training program. I did lots of research on the cost, how long the programs were, as well as meeting with several people. Once I had all this information, I then had conversation with my wife as we discussed the time, effort, and resources needed in order for me to achieve this goal that I had set for myself. We decided that this could be done and to date it remains one of the best learning experiences that I have engaged in.

R stands for RELEVANT.  An important question to ask yourself, is does this goal that you have even matter to you? Does it truly resonate with you or is it something that you doing because everyone else seems to be doing? When you think about not embarking on this journey of working towards achieving this goal, does it leave you with an achy feeling? Good, then it is relevant. My wife, ran her first marathon a little over a year after we started dating. She ran her second marathon after the birth of our two kids. It was relevant to her because she wanted to prove to herself that she could run another marathon after having a couple of kids.

T is for TIMELY. Nothing makes people spring into action like deadlines. Holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, are time bound. They do not change. If you are to work on your goal, then setting a specific date as to when you will accomplish this goal will set the finish line firmly in the ground. For instance, if you wanted to be credit card debt free by  x date, then you had better start getting your balances on all your debt now and then start to formulate a plan for being debt free by x date.

Like a ship without ports, general goals without being S.M.A.R.T. will leave you adrift. Instead, by making goals that  are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely, it will have you cruising to destinations and achievements that you didn’t think were possible.

I Want To Be Like…..

In the late 80’s and early 90’s the phrase, ” I want to be like…” was usually followed with Mike, referring to Michael Jordan, arguably one of the best professional basketball players of all time. This phrase came to mind recently in not only a conversation that I had with a fellow educational leader, but also in my viewing of the recent U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials along with this year’s Tour de France.

Talking with a fellow educational leader recently, they made reference to the point that they themselves associated themselves a lot with Abraham Lincoln in regards to the fact that they themselves were an insomniac. Lincoln often would take to the streets of Washington D.C. to ruminate about matters that were going on because he just could not sleep. This leader went on to say that they themselves had a hard time shutting their mind down like Lincoln. While this is certainly not something that I am down with in terms of not getting sleep, the idea that ‘I Want To Be Like” started to whisper in the wind.

With the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials and Tour de France on, that whisper grew louder as I was swept back to the ages of my children (9 and 12) and I remembered how I wanted to be like Carl Lewis or Greg Lemond as they worked to obtain an Olympic Berth or the yellow jersey (maillot jaune).  I would go out and try and sprint or long jump like Carl Lewis, and I would throw my leg over my trusty Schwinn Sprint and try and throw my bike across a line all in an attempt to be like them.

We can never totally become like the people that we want to be like. We can only be ourselves,  however, but like the educational leader or myself transported back to my youth, we identified with people that we saw as being at the top of their game. Leaders, professionals, and we wanted to have some of what they have. To know their secrets, to stand atop our own podium.

As adults, we often shed this idea of following somebody and putting them into that category of “I want to be like” because we think of something that we used to do in our past. There is no room for this in our lives. What with work, and family, and maybe kids, etc, how can we find the time to be anybody but ourselves? I think this is a slippery slope, and in order to shine our brightest, I believe in fact that we should want to be like…..

Look around you, and I am sure that you can name several people that you want to be like. Great. Write them down. Here comes the real work though. What specifically about them makes you want to be like them? For example, when I was in high school, I read the Autobiography of Malcolm X,  and what I found so inspiring in it was the fact that Malcolm X in Norfolk County Prison with the realization that he couldn’t really read or in his own words hold a conversation began the painstaking process of copying the dictionary in order to teach himself words. From there he worked his way onto books, and for the duration of his stay in prison, he was constantly reading. Why did I want to be like him? He said that new worlds opened up to him as he read, and he had never been more free in his life then when he took control of his own education. That idea of taking control of my own education, my own development, has stuck with me to this day.

You might find that the people that you listed when it comes down to specifically stating what it is about them that you want to be like, may in fact be nothing. However, this piece is critical, because the last piece, after naming the people and specifically listing what it is about them that you want to be like in regards to them is to take one or two things from the people that you have listed and work towards implementing it for yourself. Like the old saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will you be able to take all things from the people that you want to be like and do them all right away. Pick one or two and start there.

You walk through life as you. There will never be another one like you. However, there isn’t any harm in getting a little help in getting to be you by trying to be like someone else.

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