It’s not a novel idea. And yes, it’s engrained into our culture as an automatic “social obligation”. Someone shows us a kindness and we are conditioned as a society to feel obligated to return or pass on that kindness. But I don’t think reciprocity is so black-and-white. Or that industrial. It has warmth. It’s based on emotion. Not only can sharing positivity with one another uplift each individual as a social norm, I think it’s an immeasurable, barely even detectable at times, behavior that somehow pulses below the surface, transcendentally linking us all together. Promoting positivity. Passing energy. Inciting a revolution of goodness. “One nation, under God, indivisible, with warm and fuzzies for all.”
But in order to create such positive waves, we first have to be truly fulfilled and joyful within our own hearts first. With reciprocity, it is the perceived intention that makes it so magical. “People categorize an action as kind by viewing its consequences and also by the person’s fundamental intentions. Even if the consequences are the same, underlying intentions can cause an action to be reciprocated differently.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reciprocity_%28social_psychology%29) Meaning, a genuine act of kindness seems to mean more and is reciprocated more meaningfully than one that is phoned in, or contrived. I am convinced that not only can other people intuit that intention, but so can the Universe. It is the idea of karma.
And if you are dishing out copious amounts of selfless love for those around you, the Universe is taking note.
And stacking up your rewards.
Little gifts await.
Admittedly, January was a tough month for me. I was living in post-holiday blues, missing my family in Florida and just generally hating winter. It was a time that I questioned a lot of my intentions. For most people up north, January is historically a Debbie Downer of a month because daylight is short, Vitamin D is scarce and the cold temperatures are biting. Add those general factors to having to amp yourself up to teach an average of 6 supercharged fitness classes a day — waking up at 4:30am 6 days a week — and January can easily start to become an oppressive and exhausting enemy. Then add falling victim to the flu epidemic that ravaged the city this winter on top of that.
Suffice it to say, the winter blues can get the best of us. I know it did me. I stayed positive on the outside for those who count on me to be inspiring, joyful and motivational. I was giving everything I genuinely had to my clients and loved ones, but wasn’t able to sustain one drop for myself. I would come home at the end of a long day and feel so depleted. I used the last fumes of energy toward my most pressing priorities for survival: pour myself a glass(es) of wine before my 9pm bedtime. As an intravert, I crave alone time to recharge my batteries, and I just wasn’t getting enough of this. As a result, I was secretly scowling through January when no one was looking.
But then, the metaphorical snow melted. I made a commitment to myself to get more sleep. To take care of ME. At Mark Fisher Fitness, the Clubhouse (read: gym) I teach at, we like to say “Oxygen mask first.” It’s the notion that you can’t take care of anybody else if you haven’t first taken care of yourself. I took it to heart and slowly but surely, I felt rosiness come back into my cheeks and my usual zest for life returned. I started working out again regularly, caring about my nutrition more intently and investing myself in my work even deeper.
And then something magical happened.
But it took a long time. Six months, to be exact. Since my career change into the fitness industry in September of 2013, I was invigorated by the transition itself, but the hours and the novelty were exhausting. It was hard to feel comfortable enough to sink my teeth into the work I was doing and while I knew I was giving it my all and doing great work, I hadn’t reached a comfort level to do my best work. It took a good half of a year for all of that hard work to sink in, to allow me to step back and simply trust; to finally be vulnerable enough to do the work I’m meant to do right now. Once I achieved this open state, I came alive. I saw a difference in my teaching, and saw a difference in the responses that my clients/Ninjas were giving back. I can’t wait to see what the next six months will deliver. It reiterates the statement in an earlier paragraph about intention, that
we must have true sparks of joy behind our eyes to truly positively affect one another.
Suddenly things I had been pumping into the universe, things that felt invigoratingly selfless — extra time spent with a client off the clock, connecting on a personal level with a new employee who needs advice, writing a new blog post — were returning back to me in the most beautiful ways. Suddenly I was getting an influx of empowering feedback about my classes, from clients and employers alike. I received a very positive review on Rate Your Burn, a website dedicated to critically reviewing each local fitness instructor.
I had the honor of connecting with Erin Andrews, of sports broadcaster fame, and her sister, when they took one of my Physique 57 classes. Erin happens to be a spokesperson for Physique and was in town for the Superbowl. It was incredibly inspiring to hear her complimentary feedback on my class, feedback she didn’t have to provide. But more than that, I could tell she and her sister had fun in my energetic and challenging class. It felt wonderful! At MFF, Clif Harski, a national coach and director of training of Fitwall, stepped into my class with his new wife, who is also a fitness badass. What ensued was actually one of (in my perception) the strongest MFF classes I’ve taught and one that I am very proud of! Connections with clients like this continued to flood in, one after the other. I kept looking up to the sky thankfully after each experience, as if it were some cosmic fluke. But it continued. And with each additional experience my confidence and belief in myself grew. The work I was doing mattered. It was being noticed. Detected. Appreciated.
At Mark Fisher Fitness, I started growing in my knowledge, applying my curiosity and desire to provide more instruction at higher levels to my Ninjas. And coincidentally, my relationships with my Ninjas grew deeper as well. I opened up even more. I stopped being afraid. I started trusting. I started showing up in more and more ridiculous costumes to teach in (one of the requisites at MFF) and taking more artistic license over my own classes.
An impromptu "Manic Monday" during my Monday morning classes because DUH the 80's were rad. Let's get PHYSICAL.
On my daily commute, even the right trains (seemingly) started to come on time! The N train and NOT the R?! Hallelu!! What have I done to deserve such grace?! Being shown unnecessary kindness at certain retailers or in ballet class or by the girl at the Starbuck’s counter started becoming the norm. Discounts given when there didn’t need to be discounts given. Even random strangers yelling out compliments my way, just to be nice. Literally, I’m not joking, some woman the other day actually yelled out “Great legs!!” on the subway platform and when I turned, startled she smiled and reiterated “Truly, you’ve got great legs!” and went on her way. Like. What universe did I just step into?!
Little gifts. Started falling from the sky with little parachutes. Into my open hands.
It really made me step back and think: what had changed? Was it my perception of the day-to-day things? Yes. Partly that was it, for sure. I was feeling more positive toward myself therefore my perspective of the world became instantly more rose-colored. Was it that I was more confident and therefore braver to be more vulnerable? More receptive to these gifts that were meant for me? Sure! However, I do believe that what you emit into the universe and the intention with which you give is ultimately what you receive in return. And maybe not right away. Maybe sometimes it takes 6 months of grueling work, like in my case, to start to notice the real difference you’re making on the environment that surrounds you.
But let me tell you.
Once those beautiful ripples turn into waves that eventually turn into karmic circles of reciprocity, the whole world pulses a little brighter.
*Shine on, friends.*