Don't Take Anything Personally

This calls for a cup of coffee! 

And this is the second part of The Four Agreements book I've committed - joyously - to read and blog about over the next four weeks.  This book is compelling enough that I know it will be well broken-in and loved even after I am done with my first read through.

The author, Don Miguel Ruiz, summarizes this chapter:  "Nothing others do is because of you.  What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream.  When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others you won't be the victim of needless suffering."

Wow.  Just, WOW!

Why do we take things personally?  If someone random dude on the street yells, "hey, you stupid bitch," without even knowing me, it's not about me, it's about them.  If I were to take that random mudslinging personally, then perhaps I believe I am a stupid bitch.  I might even wonder "...how does he know?  Is he clairvoyant or does everyone else out there see how stupid - and bitchy - I am?"  The minute I choose to agree with this I've taken the 'poison' as Ruiz calls it, and I'm trapped...trapped in a dream of Hell.

Why eat others' emotional garbage?  Emotional garbage...ah, love that term too. 

Oh man, I remember getting teased a lot as a kid. Painful.  Kids can be absolutely verbally brutal to one another, don't you think?  I'd come home in tears sobbing about this and that, crying on my Mom's shoulder.  And I in turn picked on others I saw as 'weaker' than me.  I remember my Mom saying stuff like, "Just ignore them and it will go away," or even the doozy, "Don't take it personally."  That's a LOT for an 8 or 9 year old to process...when you're young all of that playground politics IS your world and nothing else matters.

What if someone insults us, truly hurts our feelings deep down to our core?  Ruiz responds by saying, "...it is not what I am saying that is hurting you; it is that you have wounds that I touch by what I have said.  You are hurting yourself."

So THAT'S it.  Oh, and how did I come across this book, on a side note?  Remember the "Two Surprising Ds" post I did recently?  I am really enjoying this new friendship with D, the woman I used to see 'squatting' in a building cafeteria where we worked - as did I.  (Consultants without official workspaces get to eek out space wherever we can!)  Thank you Michael Kors for getting us officially acquainted - she recognized me waiting in line at the store in Bellevue Square and I am so glad she said hello!

One night at a happy hour I was venting to her and a few of her friends about how I got my chops busted a little at work.  I was still fuming a bit and feeling taken down a notch or two.  Vulnerable.  I strive to be open minded, open to feedback from co-workers around me, but when it's delivered in front of another consultant I have just met, well, that's NOT OK in my book.  The energy in that small meeting was jacked up and just overall way off.  And I felt cut off at the knees, embarrassed, and in my defense, got, well, admittedly, defensive.  Hate to admit it, but I did.  There, I said it.  So D immediately cut to the chase and said ummm, you took it personally and oh you SO need to read this book!    

There's something about a double whammy back at me when people tell me to not take things personally.  I get stubborn and feel like lashing out with well hell I will feel however I want to, so NEENERS.  Yeah, that's mature, right?  It's been a lifelong process for me to shed that, grow up, and even take things to the next level by reading this book.  Nope, it's not about me.  Nothing is.  Not even when people get mad at me.  My truth is only my perception - no one else's.  I let someone push my buttons and I fell off my 'stance.'  I got defensive when someone told me to not be defensive!  Whoops.  

Now I can breathe and learn through that recent experience and let it go.  And it feels fantastic!

What about the flip side, say when someone says "you are wonderful."  Ruiz explains:  "...they are not saying that because of you.  You know you are wonderful.  It is not necessary to believe other people who tell you that you are wonderful.  Don't take anything personally.  Even if someone got a gun and shot you in the head, it was nothing personal.  Even at that extreme."

OK wow, I had not even taken it that far in my mind but alrighty!  But let's back up to the compliment of "you are wonderful."  What's wrong with acknowledging a compliment like that with a genuine THANK YOU in return?  I was always taught to appreciate compliments and not brush them off.  I'll have to keep mulling over that one.  Perhaps he means that - let me read my paragraph above again - that if we already feel that way we don't need others to tell us?

When we take things personally, we set ourselves up to suffer.  To suffer for nothing.  Ruiz even talks about abuse: "...if you have the need to be abused you will find it easy to be abused by others.  Likewise, if you are with people who need to suffer, something in you makes you abuse them...they are asking for justification for their suffering."

If we don't take things personally, we will never be hurt by what other people say or do.  How freeing is that?  We are not responsible for the actions of others...we're only responsible for ourselves.

So my goal is to really, truly incorporate this mantra into my daily living and breathing, even moreso on top of my tough lifelong journey to shed that old skin.  I know I can do it and I won't judge or beat myself up when I slip either.  Onward!

Next week's post:  Don't Make Assumptions.                


Be Impeccable With Your Word

OK, we're off and running here!  Last week I committed to blogging over the next four weeks about an amazing book I'm slowly savoring and reflecting upon.

It's called The Four Agreements, written by Don Miguel Ruiz.  And if you have sharp eyes you'll notice the picture of the book is from the nice people at Amazon.com (thanks, everyone!)  This book was written about 15 years ago, but the wisdom it contains goes back thousands of years.  The knowledge comes from the Toltec people, stemming back to southern Mexico.  It's not a religion, but it does honor all spiritual masters who have taught on Earth.

Ruiz explains that dreaming is the main function of our minds, and our minds dream 24/7.  The difference is when we are awake "...there is a material frame that makes us perceive things in a linear way.  When we go to sleep we do not have the frame, and the dream has the tendency to change constantly." 

Wow, that's profound!  I never thought we're actually dreaming while awake too (except for day dreaming).  No wonder our dreams when asleep can be so wacky and random, only making sense in their moment.  Once we're awake - poof - they're mostly gone.

Simple and profound - this is the exquisite content within this book.  I find it both very challenging and relaxing to read and contemplate, and much of it I will need to read several times through - joyously - to truly attempt to understand.  Don't get me wrong - the language is easy to read and the tone is like firm love.

He calls what society teaches us "human domestication."  We didn't choose to speak our native tongue when we were growing up, we didn't choose our religion - we didn't even choose our own name!  What happens during this process is we "...form an image of what perfection is in order to try to be good enough.  We create an image of how we should be in order to be accepted by everybody...like Mom, Dad, brothers and sisters, the priests and the teacher.  Trying to be good enough for them, we create an image of perfection, but we don't fit this image.  We create this image, but this image is not real.  We are never going to be perfect from this point of view.  Never!  Not being perfect, we reject ourselves.  And the level of self-rejection depends upon how effective the adults were in breaking our integrity."

He talks about abuse...how much we judge and abuse ourselves for our mistakes.  In relationships, if we are with someone who abuses us more than we abuse ourselves we will likely walk away from that person.  But if we are with someone who abuses us just a bit less than we abuse ourselves, we will probably stay in the relationship and tolerate it endlessly.

So here is the first agreement and my (gloriously imperfect) ramblings about it:

Be Impeccable with your word.
Speak with integrity.  Say only what you mean.  Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others.  Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

Through our word we express our creative power...through it we manifest everything.  Our word is a double-edged sword...we can create beauty with it or destroy everything around us.

What does impeccable mean here?  It means we take responsibility for our actions but we do not judge or blame ourselves.

Wow.  That's huge. *Raises hand*...I am likely the queen of self-blame and self-criticism.  Only in the past, most recent decade of my life, thanks to an amazing therapist, was this pointed out to me...reflected back in my face like a giant mirror, on how badly I beat myself up over everything I do that falls short of perfection.  Rather, we are human and gloriously flawed.  Breathe, breathe....strive for EXCELLENCE, not perfection.  This is the relatively new internal message I've worked so hard to incorporate into my core being, swimming upstream against decades more of habit and DNA. Oy. It's a journey, not a quick fix.

Ruiz goes on to discuss gossip and how mainstream it is for us as a communication vehicle - and how poisonous it is, like a computer virus within our minds.  How many times have we gossiped about the person we love the most to gain support from others for our point of view?  Reality check:  your opinion is your point of view.  Doesn't mean it's true...rather it comes from your own belief, your own ego, your own dream.

How fertile are our minds for negative ideas and "spells" people put upon us?  If we are impeccable with our word our minds become only fertile for words that come from love.  And how we feel about ourselves - how much we love ourselves - is directly proportionate to the quality and integrity of our word.

So this is the first of four new 'seeds' planted in my (fertile) mind.  How impeccable am I with my word right now?  How often do I tell myself how wonderful and great I am?  Do I speak (and write) the truth in everything I do?  I've been called "honest to a fault" by some, and I actually take that as a huge compliment.  How many white lies do we tell every day?  To others?  To ourselves?  Yeah, I love gossip as much as the next person, but I wouldn't label myself as gossip-y.  My goal this past week and going forward is to always say what I mean and mean what I say, both speaking and in writing.  And to not beat myself up if I am not perfect.

I feel happy and alive on this journey...waves of goodness wash all around me and inside me too. Is this some sort of cleansing?  I'm not questioning it one bit; just loving every second of this new "work."

Next week's Second Agreement post:  Don't take things personally. This one's gonna be a doozy in so many ways.       


Holy Grail Hair Care

OK, it's been awhile since I did some product reviews, so here we go.

I love the changing seasons here in the Northwest, but the rain does a number on my hair.  I joke that my hair is a human barometer...a little humidity or drizzle outside and POOF.  Frizz. 

Hair is emotional for a lot of us.  Let's face it, we wear our hair everyday so it's always on display and out there. If I'm having a bad hair day it ruins my mood.  I'm sure I'm the only one who notices, but still.

Back in the 1980s when big hair ruled, I was right there.  Mousse, curling irons, hair spray - I did it all.  And my "helmet hair" looked pretty damn good even if it didn't move much.  Neither did anyone else's!  Some of our sorority pictures from the late 1980s have resurfaced in Facebook Land thanks to scanners.  Damn that was a LOT of big hair!  We pretty much worshipped Paul Mitchell products...or Aqua Net as a super cheap (but super stinky) alternative.

Hair trends change (that's a good thing, plus it makes for funny memories looking back).  Somewhere into the early 1990s big hair went away.  Ah, now I remember. It was the Jennifer Aniston shag cut (from the Friends TV show) that pretty much launched a new era of hair style.  Long, choppy layers...and straight, not curly.

Hard to believe that was over 15 years ago!  But hair is still worn much more loose and natural, not in the stiff, shellac'd and crunchy curled 1980s way.  And that's fine by me...I haven't used hair spray in years and my bangs are no longer 2" above my head.  I still have a curling iron but it's slept dormant in a bathroom drawer for eons.  My profile pic is pretty accurate, save for the bangs which I've grown out a little longer (full on bangs are too high maintenance for me I discovered in a brief interlude c. 2009.  But they did hide the forehead crinkles which was nice).

All these cool, long layered styles are fabulous, but for me a problem.  My hair is pretty thick and wavy...if left to dry on its own without a hair dryer it morphs into wildly-varying forms of waves and curls.  A tad freakish.  It's funny how back in the big hair days I spent so much time every morning getting my hair all curled and sprayed.  Now fast forward a couple decades and I spend time daily...smoothing it out.  Which is a chore.  And every day it behaves a little differently.

So in all this rambling you can probably guess I've tried tons of products out there to keep my hair smooth.  Not to get it poker straight, but straight enough...and it's got to stay that way all day which is the problem.  Yeah, there are things out there like Brazilian blowouts and other semi-permanent straightenings but they scare me.  I stick with getting my highlights touched up and don't really want to add any more chemicals into my hair, even if they say those treatments are OK for color-treated hair. 

After going through several flat irons - frustrated - I discovered the GHD Styler thanks to some nice online discussion/enabling and raving about it.  Gulp...$240??  That's what I plunked down for it a few years ago (I see it's come down in price slightly in that link).  But you know what?  4 years of near daily use and this thing is a champ.  It heats up super quickly, shuts itself off, and has curved edges so you can do waves or even curls with it too (it comes with a DVD to show you how).  And it doesn't dry out or damage my hair...it just smooths it out and makes it look nice and shiny!

And speaking of shiny...this hair journey wouldn't be complete without talking about some of my favorite shampoos, conditioners and styling products.  Step into my shower and you'll find a good 6 or 7 shampoos, conditioners and a couple of cleansers and body washes.  Yeah, I have no brand loyalty in this department either (just like makeup) and love rotating products daily.  Even the smell of shampoo is wonderful to savor in a hot shower, and helps me wake up and get energized.

I tend to be a hair product snob.  I'm pretty good at mixing cheaper makeup products in with the spendier ones, but with shampoo and conditioner I've always gone more high end.  Brands like Kerastase, Alterna and Arbonne.  No shame here in plunking down $25-$30 for a bottle of shampoo.  After all, it's fabulous quality, smells amazing and lasts a long time.  And it's for HAIR!  There used to be a fantastic beauty supply store right on my commute home which was like kryptonite or crack to me.  Maybe it's a good thing it's closed down.  But then that cool thing called the internet?  With items marked down and/or free shipping?  I'm a sucker...sign me up.

Then one day in the grocery store I passed by the shampoo aisle and they had some tiny samples of Garnier's Sleek & Shine shampoo and conditioner.  I thought hell, for $1 each, why not?  I opened the bottle and wow...a very happy green apple fragrance too.  Sold.  If I didn't like it, no worries, I'm just out $2.

I am truly, truly impressed with these Garnier products.  And now the proud owner of two large bottles of shampoo and conditioner.  Each was around $5 apiece, a fraction of what I usually pay.  And this stuff WORKS.  And it does what it says it will do.  I am amazed how great my hair looks...no midday poofing or curling.  We have not had a lot of rainstorms here - yet - so that will be the true test.  I bet it's going to work out wonderfully.

Garnier also has a cream in a tube to use on towel-dried hair prior to blow drying.  Got it at the grocery store for all of $3 and it is amazing.  So long to my pricier Tigi after she's used up.

OK, now I have also fallen in love with a pricier brand, so this journey is still hard on my wallet.  Moroccan Oil.  There is a small group of shops and restaurants a short walk from my office building, and there is a salon on the main floor.  I stopped in once on my way to grab lunch and had a great chat with the girls there.  They had a Moroccan Oil product display and I asked if any of it would work on my hair.  They suggested a bottle of the treatment oil - it comes in a formula for light colored hair too!  I dab a little on my ends occasionally to keep them weighed down.  Love it!  I also am now a huge fan of their shampoo, conditioner and glimmer spray.  The spray just adds a little shine, not hold like a hair spray.

So between Garnier and Moroccan Oil I'm smiling big through the season that normally wreacks havoc on my hair.

And, major gear shifting here...next week I am going to start the first of a 4-part review of a book I've recently purchased and have just started to read.  Just putting that out there to keep myself accountable.  Wish me luck!   


That Glorious Extra Hour!

Oh man ohmanohmanohman...I am sitting here grinning ear to ear, sunshine streaming into the home office...and...

It's. Only. 11am!!  Not noon!

Seriously, people, our flip back to Standard Time (clocks go back one hour) is my most FAVORITE time of the year.  Payback...we balance the books.  It's no secret DST kicks my ass when we lose that hour in the spring.  I feel jetlagged that entire week, and perpetually stressed that I am constantly running late.  Tired + late = bad combination.

But now, time to chill.  I woke up Saturday just knowing this morning was coming.  Kinda poked around the house and later, fueled by a salted caramel mocha from a Starbucks drive thru (which I RARELY do even though there is one just 5 seconds from my house), I drove out to visit my dear friend T in Sammamish.  She's going to do a Silpada party later in December - an absolutely perfect time to host a party as it's prime time shopping season!  Blue sky, leaves turning - ahhh anytime I need to whip out sunglasses in November I am a happy girl.

I had a major sushi craving as I was driving home, and swung by the Metropolitan Market to pick up some other groceries too.  I used to commute through the Houghton neighborhood a couple of years ago when I briefly worked in Kirkland and I miss it.  The Metropolitan Market is absolutely amazing, and the people who work there have their shit together.  Nice, knowledgeable, energetic.  You can just "feel" it when you walk in. 

So I grabbed some pre-made sushi (it's actually pretty decent as they make it fresh right there in the store), got home and added an extra blob of wasabi and a few shakes of Nama Shoyu (unpasteurized soy sauce as recommended in my raw food cookbooks).  Even found my chopsticks too!  Bliss.

...almost as blissful as sleeping in today until 10am (which really was 11am but I remembered to turn the clocks back tonight - oops, well most of them).  Funny how my cell phone didn't make the automatic change (booo) but the old, crappy laptop here sure did.

So that's about it.  Just enjoying a nice, lazy weekend - hockey is the big exclamation point later tonight.  Can't wait!  

And the nice people at amazon.com are sending me a book that was very highly recommended by my new friend D.  I'll leave it at that for now - it's on it way and I will likely have my first ever book review post in here soon!