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Competence: Skill in action

Curiosity, Creativity, Courage… three skills cultivated through practice built on compassion as authenticity and gratitude.

Consistent practice builds competence in these skills. With successful outcomes from our efforts, we gain confidence in our ability to execute these skills and even transfer these skills to other contexts and situations. We call these transferable skills. When I am curious on the mat, I am more equipped to be curious in life. When I can be creative at home, I have more capacity to be creative at work (and vice versa). When I embrace courage in authentic living, I have access to deeper courage in relationships with others. These are the skills for Inspired Shift!

The 7-Cs of Inspired Shift! introduce the process of intentional, purposeful shift as a strategy for navigating life changes. As they say, “Nothing lasts, save eternal change.” Translated: Change is inevitable!

A Practice for Living Well

Getting good at navigating change is key for getting good at living well. Neither require perfection, but rather an integration of Intention, Attention and Action. Yoga provides the practice for living well. Inspired Shift provides the strategy for shifting with the inevitable changes that come along the way.

Yogis even have a word for it: Tapas. Curiosity, creativity and courage are the skills of Tapas. Like all Sanskrit words, Tapas has multiple translations and applications, but essentially it refers to the discipline to do the things that need to be done. My favorite definition says that tapas is wise application of what we know. To me, that means that failing is part of the process (not the end) of learning. We truly cannot fail if we try our best. If we do the things to the best of our ability, within our capacity, we cannot fail. Compassion is critical to practicing imperfection through the process so we can get to the point of enjoying the benefits of confidence and competence.

Knowledge, skill, and energy directly affect every outcome of our effort, both our own and that of others. Consider your capacity of knowledge, skill, and access to energy, or effort to do the things that are on your to-do list. What do you do yourself? What do you allow others to do for or with you?

What might habitually NOT get done?

Have you considered that maybe that’s because it doesn’t really matter? Is it in alignment with what you value most?

Inspired Living is a life in which we breathe deeply, move freely, labor lovingly and live vibrantly. That’s what I mean when I say #itsallyoga. Inspired Living is a personal practice, a way of being in the world and living well. Yoga is the foundation to Inspired Living and it goes way beyond the asana postures. Yoga helps us show up for all life has to offer. Yoga is about clarifying our INTENTION, applying our ATTENTION wisely and employing purposeful ACTION in our daily activities and connections. Just like we say the yoga practice is a personal practice supported by the community, Inspired Living is a practice that requires both independent study and community connection!

Aligning our daily actions and intentions with our attention and effort is learning to live in alignment. It’s the truest example of a life lived well. Learning to live in alignment is the practice of OnPurpose Living or living your life’s work.

Intention: aligned purpose in action

When we are clear about what matters, we are better able to sustain the effort to persevere. Knowing our intention begins the evolution toward clarity. When intention, rooted in compassion, comes first, our commitment to that value drives perseverance to keep on keepin’ on, even when the going is rough. Our commitment and passion for the INTENTION fuels our ATTENTION to do the thing again and again. The skills of curiosity, creativity and courage fuel the Shift toward confidence and competence.

Attention: effort and focus on what matters most

Attention is our greatest asset and our greatest gift. Think about it. We have all sorts of shame stories about wasting time, effort, and talent. We are taught to NOT waste time but not taught how to wisely invest or apply our attention to NOT “waste” time. Whether or not attention is cultivated into a proficiency is a matter of both skill and consistent effort, knowing HOW and sustaining effort. The power of attention and focus is not a secret. The tools are not new, nor are they really complicated. And yet so few of us actually take the time to do the work of planning for our daily living.

Action: Doing. Non-doing. Re-doing. Un-doing.

We can track actions. We can see and measure evidence of what’s been done and not done. There are whole programs and professions dedicated to tracking action steps and progress toward goals and completion. However, learning to determine which action (to do, not do, re-do or undo) and when can be a messy business. As we cultivate alignment, sometimes it’s enough to choose between the three PRIMARY “actions” of  breathe, move, or rest.  Move is example of doing. Rest is an example of non-doing or even an un-doing from the day’s work. Breathe might be understood as a re-doing, or doing again.

For me, non-doing has been the most challenging to navigate. How we measure confidence and competence in non-doing is not so different than how we evaluate doing. Did the action improve our QUALITY of living? Did the action cultivate alignment with our Intention? Did the action facilitate connection?

Confidence brings Competence?

Life’sWork yoga training programs promise to help participants build BOTH confidence and competence in the practices of that training.

  • Yoga Living teaches you how to customize a daily practice to (1) breathe, (2) move, and (3) rest.
  • Yoga Foundations teaches participants to (1) craft a wise sequence of asanas, (2) guide a safe experience with prana through breath practices (pranayama), and (3) hold space for rest in savasana and re-entry into the world for their students.
  • Thera-Yoga teaches yogis to (1) integrate tools, techniques and touch for therapeutic re-alignment, (2) craft unique sequences for individual therapeutic needs, and (3) assess alignment, movement and effort for efficient integration of body, mind and breath.
  • Inspired Living Champion teaches coaches to (1) serve as a companion guide for Inspired Living, (2) inspire and equip others to intentional, self-care, and (3) build a profitable, sustainable yoga-based business.

Essentially, through guided learning, experience and practice, we do the things that build skills and knowledge. We repeatedly, incrementally practice those skills in a safe environment to the point where we “accidentally” build confidence in doing something completely new. My meditation teacher introduced this concept of practice as becoming accident prone. When we show up consistently to diligently practice, we find the bliss, the state of just being almost by “accident”, meaning it’s outside our direct control. This state of just being is what I mean when I encourage the state of sister qualities of confidence and competence.

Last month I shared a three-pronged approach to build confidence is doing life well. I proposed that we need three things.

  1. Believe that I am worth it, that I matter. This is our self-worth and self-esteem.
  2. Know what matters most (to me!). These are our values.
  3. Be willing to do the work. This is discipline or tapas.

To gain confidence and competence, we need to know our self-worth, clarify our values and do the work of self-study and diligent practice.

Yoga is fundamentally all about building confidence and competence through consistent practice to live well. Our greatest hurdle in gaining confidence and competence is often quitting before it’s established, giving up before we’ve had a chance to acquire and implement the necessary skills, or staying too long in a strategy that’s NOT working. Most training programs fail us precisely because they don’t deliver integration and implementation of the new knowledge they provide.

You can do hard things.

Discipline to do the things is actually easier for many of us to acquire than its partner skill of not-doing. This is like the niyama of Ishvaripranidhana, often translated to mean surrender.

Being open to shift is not about being in control of what’s changing, but rather being in awareness of preferences and attachments around that change so I can mindfully choose how to be with it, even if it’s not the change I want. Or as my friend’s preschool daughter said when offered a food she didn’t like. “It’s not my favorite.” Yoga teaches that we don’t have to like it to embrace it, to accept it and to learn to be with it. The difference is about agency, or locus of control. I can’t control the world around me. However, I can (learn to) control the world within me. Surrendering to what is outside my control is not a giving up but rather a learning to be with and a willingness to be in process.

Mindfulness is the practice for learning the difference between agency of control and cultivating the skills of mind, body and energy control, or learning to direct our intention, attention and actions in curiosity, creativity and courage. Being in control of that which I can actually influence, my mind and my attitude, is a practice. We are all capable of learning to regulate our energy and how we use it in actions, words, and thoughts. Capability, mind you, is not the same as having the skill or even the desire. Capability requires practice ;p

Before we go, I want to say one more thing about tapas and building confidence and competence. It’s inspiration.

Many of us expect inspiration to be the impetus for action, the spark before the fire of tapas burns. We seek motivation, look for a muse, wait for the perfect timing BEFORE starting the project, which often results in never starting the project, joining the team, or asking for what we need. Can you relate?

Learning to do new things. Learning to do old things differently. Learning to do hard things better. Requires practice. But before the practice begins, there is a pre-condition. Do you know what that pre-requisite is?

Yes, breath… but something else 😉 too

A willingness to show up.

That’s it. Everything else will come with practice. We don’t even have to know where and when to show up or what we are going to do upon arrival. That will sort itself out in time. 😊 Nothing happens if we don’t show up! But WHERE does the will to show up come from?

We are born with it. The Atman spark and the Manipura Chakra fuel our efforts. Our habits either stoke the fire or dampen it.

I have learned that action is the impetus to inspiration. Action is breathing. Action is showing up! Show up consistently and inspiration will find you. In other words, the magic of overcoming boredom, lethargy, disconnection, overwhelm and every other obstacle I’ve encountered is in the shift of allowing yourself to show up.

My drive for approval left me disconnected from my true self, and often from the community around me. This went on for years, decades. Then I found yoga. And everything changed.

Well, not immediately, but the shift started almost instantly. It’s the Shift that changed my life and has allowed me to embrace ease as a way of being. In a nutshell, what I discovered unfolded in four stages:

  1. Notice the Dissonance (observe and comment)
  2. Embrace or surrender to the Shift (accept the challenge of imperfection)
  3. Show up for practice to build the skills
    1. Breathe, move, & rest
    2. Intention, Attention & Action
    3. Curiosity, creativity and courage.
  4. Clarity to choose wisely HOW to live intimately with inspiration

If you haven’t found ease in your practice and daily life, let’s connect. Shift happens. Whether we like it or not. In fact, shift is already happening. How’s your fuel tank? Are you ready for the journey or are you stuck on the side of the road with an empty tank? Yoga Living is adaptable to all shapes, sizes and life styles. Let’s #beginagain together to find your ease and embrace your shift.

The magic rests in the shift!

So here’s the catch, Confidence and Competence doesn’t happen over night and it certainly can’t happen without diligent practice. This practice is easier to sustain when we have support. We’ll talk about this Circle of support next time as we move on to CONNECTION as the 7th C on our adventure to CLARITY.

So let’s practice. Let’s get curious, creative and courageous to explore new ideas, new strategies, new shapes and new patterns. Let’s reframe our mental mindset and our emotional outlook from love. Let’s consider possibility and potentiality.

What are you practicing? How are you navigating shift in your world? My invitation for you today is to ask questions. Start with 3 proposed by Thich Nhat Hanh.  Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? And then consider:

  • Is NOW the right time? and
  • Is this mine to do?

In conclusion, as we travel the 7 Cs of Inspired shift, we build a foundation of compassion, and invite the skill building for curiosity, creativity and courage through practice of being our authentic self. Confidence and competence come as a result of this diligent practice. Next time, I’ll talk about the 7th C: CONNECTION which relates to our community.

Remember, I’m counting on you. To learn you have to get involved. So, join us in studio or online whether it’s for one-on-one or a group experience. We have circles, we offer practice, we lead trainings, and we provide personal treatments of yoga therapy and life’s work coaching. I hope that you all check us out so that we can support you in living your life’s work.

And join me next month to explore the importance of connection.

As Brene Brown says, “We are biologically, cognitively, physically, spiritually wired to love, to be loved and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.”

Yoga is our way out of suffering!