I am fortunate that I have a lot of teachers in my life; not just academic teachers (many of whom I am still in touch with 30 years later), but running, yoga, spiritual and life teachers as well. One of the most influential is Pamela Gold. Many of you remember her post from early this summer; she is articulate, intelligent, and brings clarity to things that can be difficult to comprehend (you, your relationship with yourself, and life). Take a look for yourself in the below interview — grab a cup of coffee and read this novel (yes, novel).
You are constantly trying to give people the benefit of the doubt and are so kind to anyone and everyone, no matter how much they piss you off. HOW do you do this?
Breathe. Seriously. Taking a breath, sometimes many breaths, is how I learned to stay compassionate even in the face of horribly toxic behavior. Hanging out in the pause between the exhale and the inhale, breath after breath, until I feel my mind quiet and my heart open. Judgmental brain chatter never helps unless you are in an actual threat situation (and we are lucky enough that in our protected lives we don’t face many ACTUAL threats).
Why do you place so much importance in not letting the small things in life bother you?
Not letting the small things bother you means you have tapped into a deeper strength and awareness of what is really true for you and what is really important in life. This happens sometimes in baby steps, sometimes people just wake up one day and see clearly.
For most people, it takes a lot of committed practice (aka work).
An analogy I use is when you are opening up those tins that you can’t just open from one side, you kinda gotta open a little bit, move around a bit and open a little bit more, go around a bit more and open that side a bit, and sometimes need to keep going around again and again until you can get it open — but the point is, you gotta keep working on it from a bunch of different directions.
One direction is expanding your awareness: meditation is a powerful way to do this, traveling is another, new experiences of any kind, moving out of your comfort zone, getting out into nature… there are a lot of ways to expand your awareness and this hopefully will be a life long practice. We are all doing the best we can from our level of awareness, I really believe that.
Getting better at staying grateful, no matter what.
Getting better at staying open-minded and curious (aka non-judgmental — because we can never REALLY know everything about a person or a situation).
Getting better at being BRAVE, taking action before you feel ready…
Those are the keys to keep working on and as you get better at those things, you get wiser and stronger and little things just have no power over you.
When you experience pain, how do you move forward from the pain and gain more understanding / happiness / appreciation?
When I feel pain, the first thing I instinctively do is breathe in (we really do that instinctively) and say to myself, “I am ok.” — I hold space for the pain, often saying to myself as it is happening, “Wow, this is really painful” and then, “I am ok, I am going to be ok.” and let it COME. Accepting it and then letting it pass without fighting it. Pain passes if we let it.
What I realize now used to go wrong for me was that I would judge the pain, either 1.) my reaction to it: I was horribly invalidating before, something like, “How dare I feel pain about this when I have so many blessings?” — I would fight myself and not let myself just feel it. Or 2.) I would blame others for it: another way of judging and fighting it and not allowing the or 3.) I would try to make it stop/ never happen again (which is also fighting and denying it). I would say “I am ok” and push it back down with my brain trying to blame, judge, avoid actually facing the reality of it.
An example: Let’s just say, hypothetically of course, that I was having an argument with my husband, and my feelings really got hurt. Something is handled a certain way and I am not feeling appreciated or heard and I am HURT. Old me: I go into fight or flight mode — my brain goes into overdrive trying to SOLVE the pain. Blaming him, judging myself for letting it bother me, doubting myself, figuring out how to never let this happen again. Basically it WASN’T OK that I was feeling that was. It was UNACCEPTABLE that this had happened.
New me: Same scenario (it’s not like this totally stops happening or anything! HA!), but now when I feel that pain rising up from my gut or heart, part of me gets kinda exited (explanation coming in a sec), I breathe into it and acknowledge it, and if it is really bad, so bad that I can’t stay centered and have a productive conversation, I will literally say, “Wow, that really hurt (not, you really hurt me — I take responsibility for my feelings — no one MAKES me feel anything). I need a minute to let this pass.”
And I will sit down in the middle of the floor and refuse to engage on whatever the argument is (oh yes, that was a huge infuriating move in the beginning. Now I think he likes it.).
And then, I will make my brain shut up (another benefit of meditation) because this isn’t “I’m being attacked by a bear and I need to escape” pain, this is emotional pain. There isn’t an actual threat that needs to be dealt with. Our brain is NOT HELPFUL when dealing with this kind of pain. Our brain actually is going into instinct mode where it is taking in as much information as possible and trying to catalog it all, make sense of it all, so that this pain can be avoided in the future. Super helpful when you are a baby putting your hand in the fire for the first time. Not so much in marriage. This kind of pain we need to accept and learn from, because this kind of pain is an exciting clue that there is something in us that needs to heal. Emotional pain comes from past trauma and honestly, it DOESN’T MATTER the cause, just let that sh*t go. and we let go by quieting our brain and letting it bubble up and out. Accept it (wow, this hurts) and get under it (I know it sounds weird but it kinda feels if there were a bubble coming up inside you if you could just get under it, it would rise up and go out the top of your head). Any kind of THINKING stops this process: the brain keeps holding on to it. By letting it bubble up and out, the exact same situation won’t be as painful next time.
It is unbelievable, I know, but I swear it is true.
Once I discovered this, I got super excited (you start to feel like you are losing 400 pounds each time) and I started to feel that excitement at the same time that any pain popped up, because feeling pain is always an opportunity to let go of some sh*t you’ve been carrying around. Rarely is emotional pain NEW — it is usually tied to some older wound of not being good enough or not being safe… rarely in that moment are you actually unsafe, or not good enough (because we are all f-ing awesome, right?).
A yoga teacher of mine once said, it is kinda like if you left a bag of produce in the trunk of your car for 3 months. When you discover that it is in there, don’t try and figure out what it was, just get it the hell out of there.
Pain truly is ALWAYS a learning opportunity. Always an opportunity to get stronger, wiser and more powerful. I am always grateful for pain, as hard as it may be and as many breaths as I need to take to stay there. And the learning may be that you need to be more respectful of your own boundaries, right? Sometimes we get hurt and it was because we gave too much of ourselves, didn’t maintain the integrity of our space, didn’t feel energetically safe. As the pain passes it usually becomes clear for me what was off about what happened, and what I need to adjust going forward. The key though is to make sure we don’t FEAR PAIN. Pain is necessary for growth. If we FEAR PAIN, we get stunted. We close our hearts to connecting with others. We don’t embrace being out of our comfort zones. FEAR is always enemy #1, and fearing pain is a trap that most humans end up falling into.
Do you have a mantra that you say to yourself everyday? If so, what is it and when do you say it?
My mantra is Thank You. I say thank you over and over again probably a thousand times a day in my head. And I really FEEL it. Every breath is something to say thank you for and there is beauty everywhere once you start appreciating it.
Do you believe in god? Do you pray? How do you practice these prayers or belief in god / the universe? How does it show through in your life? What do you believe in most in life?
Ah, God can be such a triggering concept for so many reasons. I will say that what I now believe God to be is completely unlike what I was exposed to growing up, and I personally don’t subscribe to the concept of a separate entity somewhere controlling things. My definition is more a la Star Wars “The Force” — a flow that is everything and everywhere and more powerful and magical than it is ever possible to grasp with our brains. (Pantheism is what I subscribe too, if you are curious)
Regardless of all of that, I deeply believe that it doesn’t matter in the least what your beliefs around “God” are, when it comes to our evolution as people. Faith in God CAN be a path, but it doesn’t have to have anything to do with it. All that matters is this: Do you believe in yourself? Not in a prideful, “me vs. others” comparison kind of way, but in a deep, intrinsic value, I am worthy of love, kind of way.
If you do not believe that you are worthy of love, and/or if you find yourself *at times* not believing that you are worthy of love, that is where you work lies. None of this has anything to do with what we believe God to be.
I do pray when I finish my meditations, and I visualize because I believe that clear visualizations help make things happen, but then I surrender to the flow of what IS. I have faith that whatever happens, it is part of my story inherently, and it will either be an opportunity to grow (aka pain) or an opportunity to celebrate. Either way, I am ALWAYS grateful.
What do I believe in most? Light and Love.
You recommended watching the Tony Robbins documentary— what other media outlets (books / movies / podcasts) do you recommend?
There is a great fable about a Native American grandfather telling his grandchild about two wolves that we all have living inside of us — I watch and listen to things that feed the wolf I want to win. I want to be constantly learning, being inspired, being challenged, being informed with REAL information, feeling the abundance of love and light in the face of all the sh*t that’s going on in the world. I have no place in my life for shallow, inflammatory bullsh*t. I don’t even watch the most entertaining shows anymore that I used to love if they truly aren’t inspiring. I don’t want fake drama. I want solutions to the huge problems humanity is facing. I want more tools in my toolbox to be as healthy and highly functioning as possible. Some of my favorites are Marie Forleo, Brian Johnson’s Philosopher’s Notes on YouTube, HBO documentaries, Vice, documentaries on Netflix… documentaries can be on history, politics, science, business, inspiring people (I loved the one on Robin Williams!) — there are plenty of lighthearted, entertaining options that are TRUE, which means you can learn from them… So many people say to me, yeah, but I just want to watch mindless TV sometimes. I get it, I really do, but I promise that isn’t serving you. There are other activities you can do to unwind that won’t plant seeds in your brain to make you less compassionate, less wise, less brave… so many of those shows are just modeling dis-functional behavior and our brains subconsciously take EVERYTHING in that we experience. Same goes for our kids.
Watch Brene Brown’s TED Talk. Read Code of the Extraordinary Mind. Read biographies. Go see Hamilton. So much inspiration is out there. And some of it is dark. There are a lot of real problems in our world that we can’t put our heads in the sand on… we need to know the darkness to figure out how to light it back up with love, or how to be ready to rise up out of it. I want to be as educated as possible about what is really going on in the world. I would just say that you need to know yourself as to how much of the dark stuff you can watch without it starting to affect your own light and love. The darkness (fear and hate) is contagious as we are seeing very clearly in our country right now — if you watch the news and feel scared or feel hate, stop watching the news.
You don’t need fear to stay safe, just a normal amount of common sense will do that for you at this point in your adult life.
Ok, so I know that you are supposed to feel the feelings and acknowledge them and not repress them. So, let’s say you are down and feeling blue, and you recognize it, you acknowledge it, you feel it in your body, and THEN WHAT? How do you move forward, how does this help your growth, how do you feel “better?”
So to expand upon what I already explained (and let me know if you want to edit it or whatever) — to not get STUCK with our feelings we need to keep practicing letting them go, and the best way that I have personally found to do that is to stop thinking. From there, often times I feel the need to move to get them to go up and out, so I’ll exercise or put on music and start dancing! Pain has an energy to it, and it moves up from Shame, Grief, Apathy, Fear, Anger and Pride… then finally you get to Courage! (first positive state) As it moves up, it creates a space to send in love and forgiveness. So as I was describing before with that bubble feeling, as you get under it, practice sending light and love and forgiveness. Forgiveness is beyond powerful. Forgiving ourselves, forgiving others — it is literally like unlocking handcuffs. It frees you in a very real way. And kinda like being Houdini and figuring out how to escape handcuffs, figuring out how to forgive can take a lot of work. It is almost like blindly fiddling around with a set of keys in a lock, does this one work? Nope, doesn’t seem to. Try another way. Try another way. It is all about this inner work which most of us haven’t spent much time on. We are flying blind in there! But having this intention, this commitment to not giving up figuring out how to forgive… just keep fiddling until you get it, and you get better and better at it. One of the best books I have read to help explain this better than I can is by David Hawkins called Letting Go. Brilliant.
Dancing, singing, laughing, exercising, being out in nature all will work wonders as you keep trying to figure out how to master this inner power of forgiveness and letting in the light and love. Our brain can get really attached to being pissed, or being sad, and it can be really tricky and take a lot of effort to figure out how to let go. And of course, there are really big things that can happen in our life that will be even harder to move through… so, no judgments, just practice, persistence and patience.
Last post, you said “Cultivating Gratitude and Compassion, Courage, and Curiosity in your life is the way to go.” How does one do all that? It sounds so easy, but how DO YOU DO IT?
OK cultivating Gratitude and Compassion, Courage, and Curiosity: there is a great app called BLISS that has a bunch of daily practices/ exercises to help get the muscle memory of your brain going in these directions. I love that. Really, like anything else in life, it is just practice. And you need to remember to practice. So apps that remind you, jewelry that reminds you, routines that remind you, anything that you can do to remember — it is all about the practice. The more you practice, the more it becomes second nature. Writing in a gratitude journal, playing gratitude games with the kids, saying thank you often and really meaning it, looking for a way to feel grateful in the face of things not “going your way”… I like to say, I feel firmly rooted in gratitude. Like a mother f-ing oak tree. There is a lot of bravery required to stay grateful because you really need to surrender to something deeper than your ego when your brain can’t possible make sense of how a particular sh*t storm (and accompanying pain) could possible be something to be grateful for!
Using the breath to cultivate compassion, practicing random acts of kindness, catching yourself when you feel your heart closed and figuring out how to open it back up (usually there is some sort of bravery you need to tap into — our heart closes when we perceive a threat, but as I mentioned, rarely are we actually threatened)… being open-minded and curious, always remembering you can’t possibly know EVERYTHING about a situation so what could you be missing? What else could be going on? Is there REALLY a threat here? Catch yourself labeling things “Good” or “Bad”, “Right” or “Wrong”, as much as our brain wants to do it.
And of course practice being BRAVE — big deep breath in, fast full breath out. In my daughter’s fourth grade play rehearsals, they coached them to breath in rainbows and breath out rain clouds. It freaking works.
You need to be aware of how you are feeling to use these tools right? So the first step has to be that awareness of how you are FEELING. Non judgmental assessment. Often times it is a big knot and hard to figure out in the beginning, but the more you pay attention to your feelings the better you will get at recognizing what is going on in you, and figure out what to do about it. Act out of bravery and love and you will spread beauty. Act our of pain or fear, you will spread suffering.
You have been sending out newsletters weekly and they are such a great source of knowledge and inspiration — how do you choose what topic to write on?
As I go about my day I am practicing all of these principles and I will just feel inspired to share what I am seeing, practicing or learning… there are an infinite number of times a day that I am practicing all of this, so there is plenty to write about! I just don’t always have a computer or pen or time when I’m inspired. I just try to make sure I write once a week… and have conversations with friends at least a few times a week to share and to try and get better at explaining these abstract/ “hard to find the words” concepts! HA!
After my meditations I often have particularly powerful epiphanies… yesterday after meditating I came out with this sense that Gratitude is a spiritual X Marks the Spot for receiving abundant blessings. As long as we stay rooted in gratitude, we will be in the “RIGHT” time and place to have those unexplained gifts bestowed upon us.
Last week I felt compelled to send my company’s two interns to see Hamilton (which financially I had no business doing, but it just felt right so I bravely did it)… they were beyond appreciative and were saying that it was too much and I told them a few quick stories of times when it was like a “bank error in your favor” situation, where I got free things, etc. that were inexplicably generous and I was just paying it forward.
Well, it turned out there was an issue with StubHub so the tickets that were supposed to be “Instant Download” — took about 15 minutes for me to be able to print, and at that point it was basically showtime… so they dashed off, knowing there was no way that they were going to make it before showtime, pretty low after the high of learning they were going to Hamilton. I nicely demanded to speak to a supervisor because that was just wrong — here I had spent a dumb amount of money to send these sweet kids to Hamilton and they were missing the opening, standing in the back not being able to see, who knows when they would make it to their seats.
The StubHub supervisor was awesome, totally understood what I was saying (and noted that I am a solid StubHub customer) and said that she would give me a credit for the tickets. In my mind, I was like, a 10% credit? 20% credit? She just went on apologizing and said she just emailed the credit and BAM — she gave me a credit for the entire cost of the tickets. So, my interns stood in the back for one song and then saw Hamilton for free (5th row dead center). Besides there pretty much always being a parking spot waiting for me, this is the kind of thing that happens to me, regularly. I am deeply grateful and humbled for the magic in my life.
Thank you, Pamela, for your wisdom, love, powerful message, belief in inner peace, and being the best of the best. I love you.