Katie B.: “Take expectations for example”

We can never stop thoughts completely, but we can slow them down. The key isn’t to stop thinking as much as it is to recognize you are not your thoughts and slow down the ones that don’t serve you. By just focusing simply on “I am breathing in” and “I am breathing out”, you’ve already […]

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We can never stop thoughts completely, but we can slow them down. The key isn’t to stop thinking as much as it is to recognize you are not your thoughts and slow down the ones that don’t serve you. By just focusing simply on “I am breathing in” and “I am breathing out”, you’ve already slowed down thoughts and focused on a neutral one. That neutral thought blocks other thoughts that don’t serve you. When you’re focused on a neutral thought, there’s space for you to hear what’s really going on, without your filter of insecurity.

As a part of my series about How to Slow Down To Do More I had the pleasure to interview Katie B. . Katie uses her B_Inspired initiative to awaken a deeper part of your spirit. From losing her mom at 14 to breast cancer to her facial paralysis with Bell’s Palsy, she takes inner transformation seriously. Her b_inspired courses in India, Mexico, Costa Rica, Cuba, Italy, Spain, China, Colombia and beyond have challenged thousands of participants to combine sweat with DEPTH. #B_Inspired is a place to feel alive when you arrive. It’s your home to passionate posts, brave honesty, reset retreats, and free yoga online! Katie B. has the divine energy to help you peel back your layers to expose the power you have within. Her personality built on tough love and guidance aids her clients and audiences to their natural abilities to heal their physical, mental, and emotional states. It’s not just a WORK OUT to Katie, but a WORK IN.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?

The Latin root of the word “inhale” is to “inspira” — to inspire. We inhale (inspire) and exhale (expire) hundreds of thousands of times a day and rarely think about this automated biological response. At 14 years old, I watched Kathy Burke, my badass 43-year-old mama, take her last breath. I knew that cancer had taken her breasts, but I didn’t know it would take her life. As a strong Jersey woman, I never realized she was actually going to die. Silly, huh? But watching her chest rise, and then watching it fall, and never rise again, switched something on inside my little adventurous heart. I remember thinking, “that’s it? that’s all we are? One final exhale?”

As if I wasn’t already “doing” enough as a pre-pubescent human, I decided to “DO” everything I could. Class President, Cheerleading, NJ State District Board of Key Club (dorky volunteer club), moved out on my own at 17, and the list goes on. I became the best human-doing there was. Squeezing every last inch out of a life I knew was far too short, I was unstoppable.

Born in ’87, I feel incredibly lucky to have lived through high school without smartphones (it’s crazy, no GPS?!?) and with the brand new Nokia phones where we played snake at lunch. This was before adderall swept schools like a hurricane of extra unnecessary thoughts, and made a generation of extreme DO-ers & anxiety-filled thinkers.

With a promise of getting out of ‘Jersey, I moved myself to San Diego State University. My degree in International Security and Conflict Resolution traveled me to the San Sebastian hills of Peru to work at a battered women’s shelter all the way to utilize my Mandarin in the rice fields of Jiangxi, China working in a poverty alleviation program.

Checking all of society’s proverbial boxes and then some, I graduated and started working for a nonprofit that helped support breast cancer patients. I had “DONE” it all. Now what? I kept filling my plate with the next accomplishment, the next checkbox. I was even doing fulfilling work and still felt disconnected, unfocused, and disempowered.

On average, 60,000 thoughts flood through your head in a day. Researchers say, 59,000 are repeated from the day before. The running playlist of the same/same anxiety and worries plagues the mind of the average person daily. If you asked me what ran my recorded trackback in 2008, I’d have no idea. But I do know what slowed them down.

Running this statistic out farther, you can hold 3–5 thoughts at one time in your head. Simultaneously, you can be thinking “I feel the seat against my leg, I’m cold, I’m hungry, I hear my friend speaking to me.” Fueled by a debilitating break up with my first love (as all millennial yogis begin) I wandered into a CorePower Yoga to try some fitness style hot yoga (if only Trevor, my long-haired, green-eyed, and mediocre guitarist ex-boyfriend could know what he caused.)

Sweat tickled my armpits in a teasing way of making me move when I wasn’t supposed to in that “dead person pose” at the end of class. As the teacher invited us to take a “good morning stretch” I sat up, putting my hands awkwardly at my heart like I was back in catholic school. Yet, something was different. I felt calmer. I was only focusing on what the teacher said. I could actually feel my chest rise and fall, noticing the fact that I was breathing. I was “inspira”-ing… inhaling deeply.

Tool #1: Subtract thoughts to add clarity.

We can never stop thoughts completely, but we can slow them down. The key isn’t to stop thinking as much as it is to recognize you are not your thoughts and slow down the ones that don’t serve you. By just focusing simply on “I am breathing in” and “I am breathing out”, you’ve already slowed down thoughts and focused on a neutral one. That neutral thought blocks other thoughts that don’t serve you. When you’re focused on a neutral thought, there’s space for you to hear what’s really going on, without your filter of insecurity.

From that one jumping point, I noticed my breath, just like when I watched my mom take her last. How had I forgotten? Maybe I had never learned. After graduating from their yoga teacher training, I started spreading the simple calmness I felt from the practice into my nonprofit workplace. People noticed a difference in me. I was more focused, more present. What they saw in me was infectious, and they wanted to be taught the tricks of the trade. Little did they know it wasn’t rocket science, just paying attention to your breath.

Taking a leap of faith, I left my 9–5 gig to follow this calmness. I had no idea how I was going to make money, so I decided to host donation-based classes. My first real life’s lesson in slowing down paid in insane exponential growth. I was making three times the amount of money I was at my corporate job, because people kept showing up. Because I was doing something that I felt I was growing in, it made me happy. That happiness created a presence, which my students felt loved and heard.

That presence created an insane following that 9 years, over 5,000 classes later, I am living proof doing less actually gains more. I started living as a human BEING, not a human doing.

On top of my yoga career, in 2015, I had been certified and taught everything from kids yoga to becoming a Master Personal Trainer. I was giving and giving and giving. Somewhere along the way, I got back to checking boxes. This time, yoga/fitness boxes. But, doing yoga means you’re at peace, right?

Tool #2: Subtract expectations, gain self worth

My right eye was stuck open. My lips stuck about an inch apart. I looked like I got a botched botox job on just the right side of my face. I could feel everything, but nothing was moving. When the ER doctor told me I had Bells Palsy, the word “palsy” hit me like a ton of bricks. I was the healthiest person I knew, right?

Through tears I texted my boyfriend Anthony, “I am paralyzed on the right side of my face, and the doctor said only 80% of people heal from it.” He immediately replied in his sarcastic manner, “behb, you’re special, but not 20% special.”

I have giant horse teeth and a big mouth. My smile is huge. My paralysis forced my successful public figure yogi self “Katie B Happyy” to only have half of a smile. Where I had for years depended on my youthful flexibility and athletic outer shell, I now felt gypped by my body. I had to hold my lips together to even drink or eat food or say “f” and “p” sounds.

Broken in so many ways, I cleared my schedule of everything that wasn’t teaching. I went to healers, acupuncture treatments, chiropractic adjustments, massages, and just relaxed. Bell’s palsy is an inflamed nerve so I was trying to de-flame everything. Instead of hiding from the public eye like so many do, I chose to keep teaching, beautifully broken. I cried with my students when they reacted to my face, I showed up with my whole heart asking for help. #puffyeyedandpowerful

Something shifted. Because I was doing a lot less, somehow more flowed in. My persona of “super yogi” fizzled away, and yet I related to so many of my students on the mutual plane of despair. For the first time ever, my retreats filled.

Without even knowing, my relationship was saved. My boyfriend felt needed and purpose-filled in our relationship because I took the time to look him in the eyes and ask for help. I gained thousands of devoted followers that wanted to cheer me on, and I replied to them all. My sole focus was healing and my students and the universe gave me more financial gain in my retreat business than ever before. No Instagram ad could have gotten me the same surplus as me simply being present with people and asking about them.

Tool #3: Subtract accomplishments, add valuable relationships

My eye started to blink the second month in, and eventually, my smile slowly worked at the end of six months. Three years out, I am left with this overwhelming lesson that life will constantly slow you down even if you don’t ask for it. Every time it does, I’ve gained so much more. From a successful career leading yoga adventures around the world to authentic relationships, there are incredible presents in presence.

They always say people won’t remember what you did, but they will remember how you made them feel. We have this unique opportunity as humans to take responsibility for the energy we bring to any space.

Whether you’re in line at the grocery store or sitting too close to someone on an airplane, out of the trillions of possible interactions you could have had, you landed with this one! Why? Who knows. Be present. Own the vibration you’re bringing forth and you never know the doors that will open because you slowed down enough to be with a human. Out of the expectation of human doings, when we human BE with people, you can start to enjoy every inhalation, and discover the reason you woke up today.

According to a 2006 Pew Research Report report, 26% of women and 21% of men feel that they are “always rushed”. Has it always been this way? Can you give a few reasons regarding what you think causes this prevalent feeling of being rushed? Based on your experience or research can you explain why being rushed can harm our productivity, health, and happiness?

Every morning we wake up on someone else’s to-do list. People are living for other people’s validation which ends up being momentary flashes of happiness, not long-lasting. We read red notifications, answer emails, respond to other’s requests, live off of comments and likes rather than our own definition of what it is to truly be happy.

To be truly happy, we have to close the gap between where we are and where we want to be. If we’re rushed, we can’t enjoy where we’re at. For example, if I know I want to have kids to be happy, and I’m currently wildly single, I can’t wake up every day rushed to have kids. I have to decide, “today- to be on my path, I am going to make eye contact with three people for authentic connection. I trust that meaningful connection opens doorways to where I want to be. That’s enough”

Then, when your aunt or grandma asks condescendingly, why don’t you have kids, you can feel proud and confident that you made the right strides today to get there. You opened up. You looked at people. You asked meaningful questions. You can’t rush a flower to blossom. The world doesn’t work that way. Do you think you could ask a lily to hurry up and bloom already?

On the flip side, can you give examples of how we can do more, and how our lives would improve if we could slow down?

When we subtract, we get more. Take expectations for example. I run life-changing Self-Ventures around the world. Currently, I’m guiding a group of 15 strong adventurers through India as I write this. Our mantra is always, “expect nothing, receive everything.” Why? Because when we can subtract expectations of what we want to happen, the world opens its beautiful narrative to us. You start to become curious about what life can bring you instead of expecting life to bring you something you already know and recognize. There are so many opportunities and lessons in the form of new experiences and new people if only you take out your own filter and just let the world teach you.

Another example happened while on this trip. Our bus didn’t arrive when we asked it to come at 9 am. Instead, we improvised and took 8 different rickshaws to get to our location. We met local drivers, laughed so hard at the bumpy ride, and got there late to the tour. We expected a tour of the spice market, and since we were late to the paid tour and things didn’t work as expected. But, we met locals and laughed at crazy rides through Delhi. One of the locals we met actually helped us understand how his family has used spices for years, which who knows… that could have been the world’s lesson on spices that we needed instead of some tour guide we missed.

We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed. Can you share with our readers 6 strategies that you use to “slow down to do more”? Can you please give a story or example for each?

My Techniques to Subtract to Add More:

1. No Screen Time: Take back your day

The thirty minutes you first wake up and before bed is for you. The minute you pick up that phone, you are responding to a red notification that is someone else’s request or watching someone else tell your subconscious you’re not enough on social media.

Take the time to journal and manifest. Get lost in fantasy about the good things that could happen in the future. The universe wants to work in your favor, but it responds only to the extent that you’re clear.

When I was single as a new yoga teacher, I didn’t know what I was looking for. The minute I wrote down specific character traits of what I’d hope for in a guy, he didn’t just appear… he was already there, cleaning my yoga studio for trade, I just didn’t see him until I wrote specifics.

There was a study of kindergarten kids that do Teddy Bear Tummy Time. Every morning they put teddy bears on their tummies as they lay on the ground and do 10 rounds of breathing as the teddy bears rise and fall. The study proved the children, after only 10 rounds of conscious deep breathing, were more attentive, scored better on testing, and were more focused on their work. They started the day more grounded.

2. Spend Time in Gratitude

When my alarm goes off in the morning, I send my legs up the wall (amazing for reversing varicose veins and sends fresh oxygen-rich blood flow to the heart) and I start imagining something in my life I’m insanely grateful for.

For me, it’s my little guido nephew, Lorenzo. He’s an adorably kind three-year-old Jersey Italian that wears tracksuits, Nikes, and gold chains. When I think about him my entire body swells up with love. Take moments of “presence pause” and think of 1–2 things you’re grateful for.

There is a channel of happiness we each have the capacity to tune into whenever we want. When I take 30 seconds to close my eyes and think of something I’m grateful for, my entire physical body changes. I get out of the stress response (sympathetic state) and go into what we call the rest and digest state (parasympathetic state) — where we are less reactive and more reaffirming. Sometimes when I’m frustrated I’m bloated or I woke up with a hangover, I remember the years I was paralyzed. I close my eyes, come back to gratitude for the fact that my face works and my smile works. Then, I am less angry at myself and therefore less angry at others.

3. Spend Time Giving

Then I consider that feeling of gratitude, and I send that love out to someone else. I imagine a green light (heart chakra) from my heart streaming towards theirs. I often envision my Dad in Pennsylvania or my brother over in Vietnam. I think of sending them love energy.

Consider this- we never doubt the fact that a written message, in a tiny box we hold in our hands, will magically fly from my box to another person’s handheld box anywhere on the planet. So why do we doubt the power of intention/ prayer? They run on the same vibrational frequencies. You are powerful beyond measure.

Kinetically, something changes when you think of others. Your mind changes from its crazy hamster wheel of 60k thoughts about yourself and shifts to someone else. If someone is really depressed, one of the best ways to get them out of their head is to get them into giving. When I lost my mom to cancer, the simple act of doing the Race for the Cure helped me stay focused and in control. We started a memorial tubing event down the Delaware River the first Saturday of every August in her memory. She loved tubing because she could drink Coors light and pee at the same time. It started with our family tubing in bright pink tubes back in 2002 and has continued 17 years strong hosting hundreds down the river and raising over 50,000 for breast cancer research and survivor healing weekends. Now, with the money, my 501c3 b_inspired funds two free retreats for cancer survivors to help them figure out what’s next after cancer. In a bigger way, that simple act of giving helps me THINK LESS about loss and do more for the greater picture.

4. Change Your Space

Travel gets me remembering how big the world is. Whenever I feel my 60k thoughts spiraling into a tornado of self-doubt and indecision, I remember what it feels like to meet people of different cultures, see worlds you’ve never seen before. If you can’t travel to Africa, try a town 30 miles away… just wander the local streets and see new people.

Every time I feel depressed, I simply drive 30 minutes over the San Diego border and head down to the orphanage we volunteer at. We play with these kids and I forget my thousands of emails to respond to, and the made-up deadline stresses I have. Kids force presence out of you, and showing up and playing with kids who have no direct mentorship allows you to feel connected to the greater picture. If you’re reading this, you are lucky enough to have had the monetary luck and mentorship to be in a space where your stresses are the first world made. Getting out of that routine reminds you that 98% of the world lives off less than a dollar per day, and have been happy in many ways since the dawn of human existence.

5. Keep Your Head Up

Looking at your phone is the new yawn. Every time there’s an awkward pause or a moment to fill we swipe. Make it a mission today to look at three people’s eyes authentically. See them. Everyone just wants to be seen. Instead of seeing people through the lens of insta, why not see them via the window to their soul? I dare you to hold eye contact for at least 30 seconds with someone.

How many times have I decided to strike up a random conversation and realized the universe needed me to have that convo? I remember sitting at the desk at my yoga studio checking people in, and this student prodding me to give her my attention. I was on my phone responding to the endless notifications and requests, and she kept asking questions. Frustratingly, I looked up, and for a moment, I saw my mom’s calm brown eyes in hers. I saw my dead mother’s heart in her words and I felt hugged by an old friend, mama, I hadn’t seen in a while. My entire day was changed and I that day I signed up 4 people for one of my trips simply because I was connected.

6. Stay connected to your mission

Every morning I reaffirm my intention. For example, today, I just want to make sure people feel supported. Then, my attention all day is placed on making that happen. If my mission in life is truly to make everyone feel like anything is possible for them, then my day becomes a fun adventure into figuring out how to enable people with my actions, words, and feelings.

What is the point of this life unless we give it meaning? We are all out there searching for the same things- love, connection, to feel a part of something greater. The only way we feel purpose-filled is if we define daily what meaning is for us. Watching my mom take her last breath was the catalyst for me defining every day with my meaning. What is the reason we were so blessed to wake up again? Literally, all we are is this breath, and the minute we take out last exhale, our last expiration, this life is over. Every day becomes a journey to define the breath.

How do you define “mindfulness”? Can you give an example or story?

What does it mean to be full? I think of a cup half full or all the way full. To be full of the mind is a tricky thing. We want to be full in spirit, but not full of anxiety-driven thoughts. We want to be full of love, but not full of jealousy or doubt.

In our days, the mindful movement is about asking the question, “what is going right?” instead of “what is going wrong?” It’s about having the bravery to behold your tongue if what you’re going to say doesn’t elevate the situation. It’s about being courteous enough to speak only 20% of the time, and letting your peers speak 80%. It’s about knowing that we all listen with a filter of our personal perspective, and as we watch our thoughts float in like a TV show, becoming less reactionary to the stimulus and more reaffirming from an observer space.

Our job in this life now is to help people know that they are enough. That they are fulfilled in just being their unique, imperfect self. The mindfulness movement is something we need as a reminder to mind our thoughts because they are not true. To mind our words, because they have an impact. To mind our hearts, because they trick us. To mind your time, because it’s limited.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to use mindfulness tools or practices

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Life happens FOR you, not to you. Everything in life is a teacher. When we see each experience as happening for us, the world starts to be this mysterious playful thing where we can figure out the clues and look for signs like purple butterflies. Perceivably negative and positive things have an equal probability of coming true, so why not stay in a space of wonder instead of worry?

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

A movement to focus on the idea that life happens for you, not to you.

Everything in life is a teacher. When we see each experience as happening for us, the world starts to be this mysterious playful thing where we can figure out the clues and look for signs like purple butterflies. Perceivably negative and positive things have an equal probability of coming true, so why not stay in a space of wonder instead of worry? What if we spent our days investigating what the world has to teach us through living our authentic selves? Listening to your gut instinct so deeply and trusting it that even if the answer isn’t easy…like breaking up with my “perfect” partner of 6 years, we know deep down somewhere that it’s right. That if we stay in tuned with what’s going right and not what’s going wrong…we can always listen to the inner guidance.

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