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Compassion, Freedom, Life Coaching, Love, Mindfulness, Power Within, Radical Acceptance, Sacred justice, Self-love, Spiritual Activism, Suffering, Transformation

The Summer of Love

We’ve all seen the violence in the news, felt the despair in our communities and our social media feeds. How could I call these past few months the Summer of Love?

Do you know what was happening during the historic Summer of Love? In 1967, at the height of the hippie movement, with the convergence of hundreds of thousands of “flower children” in San Francisco?

The Summer of Love was also the summer of the Vietnam War, clashes of anti-war protesters with police, disillusionment with the gains of the Civil Rights Movement that drove Dr. King to strike out with an economic campaign to eliminate poverty, while also speaking out against the government’s misguided, deadly efforts in Vietnam. The Summer of Love was the summer of race riots and a city on fire, in Detroit, and in Newark. Then, the KKK also sat openly, in public, their hoods atop their crowns but faces exposed. What other commonalities can we see between 1967, and 50 years later, in 2017? It’s what Rebecca Solnit calls “a glimpse of who else we ourselves may be and what else our society could become,” where in moments of disaster and crisis, people come together and inhabit the possible, enacting “an emotion graver than happiness but deeply positive.” Pick up her book, A Paradise Built in Hell to get more of the story about how humanity rises to the tragic occasions of the kind that marked 1967, and that trouble our nation, now. I am not interested in blithely denying the horror of this moment with flowers and warm feelings. Rather, it is a moment when the horror is more visible, but in many ways, no more horrific then when we who could afford to, looked away. We have the opportunity to love–not in the sentimental way–but in the real, compassion in action, a kind of “just mercy” way (there’s another *must read*), in how we face ourselves and how we show up in the world. You can start by donating to EJI or to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Those of you who’ve followed me on my journey, pre-coaching, as a coach, and currently, a counselor-in-training, know that I have been consistent in my message, and it should be no surprise that I’m talking racial equity in my newsletter, again. In some ways my coaching communique reads more like social justice missives. Here’s why: I had some bad-ass teachers when I was 15, 16, 17, 18 years old. They fucking taught Howard Zinn and Marlon Riggs and James Baldwin in high school. I went to my first anti-racism workshop as a junior in college in Chicago. It wasn’t on the news back in 1999, but I saw all of it first hand, when I interned at the Organization of the Northeast, under an amazing mentor of a community organizer, and witnessed how black and brown kids normalized daily abuse from police, while the city offered pathetic solutions like pizza and basketball. I cannot say I have formulated the real solutions, but believe that our society, or the critical mass we need, once well-informed, has the creativity to find ways to justice and healing. In many ways, it starts with people like me, white, with resources, to do things differently.

I want to be clear: when I talk about Love, this is not the same as being “nice.” I have surely upset friends, community members, and readers with my clear and firm voice on these issues. There is a kind of love, mother love, informed by grief and rage, that is designed to protect our vulnerable, our children, our people. I am not a mother by birth, but by living in a society that is willing to kill children and hold nobody accountable for their deaths. I am not afraid of using this loving force to speak the truth. This must be done by more and as many of us, especially us white Americans, who know the gravity of our collective history and how it has shaped the present experience of transgenerational trauma with which so many of our human family live. We need to place our own inherited racism to the side, see it for what it is, even if disguised as humanistic or lofty ideas, and really grasp the experience of the “other.” We all need support in this process, because it’s hard to see the water we are swimming in. There are wonderful resources and racial equity trainings across the U.S. I urge you to message me if you want help connecting to support in your community. I can also work with you as your coach to help you unpack the beliefs and biases you were born into.

As usual, this is a long post. I want to wrap it up by saying that my coaching practice has always been and will continue to center around living a life of greater presence, authenticity, and compassion for self and others. When I was introduced to the wide world of the coaching industry a few years ago, much of it made me very uncomfortable. I resisted the marketing techniques I saw, and decided to go my own way. It would have felt dishonest to promote myself as having reached some pinnacle of spirituality or happiness and sell these mythic ideals as a product. I could not imagine promoting a lifestyle, as a coach, of joy and achieved dreams, while ignoring the suffering of so many for whom there is obstacle after obstacle, socially designed and maintained by us all. Instead, my goal was to encourage and give clients the tools to accept and love themselves, without conditions, and bring that deepened connection with self into all of life. This continues to be my work.

Lastly, I want to share the amazingness that is Kelly Diels with you. In her writing about the Female Lifestyle Empowerment Brand, Diels identifies in a cogent and incisive way, the pitfalls of the coaching and spiritual marketplace. She describes the way some of the most successful women in the self-help/spiritual realm duplicate white supremacy in their marketing, all while co-opting the language of revolution, and how we might fall for its intentional social triggers, if we aren’t aware of the strategies being used.

Compassion, Dreams, Embodiment, Emotions, Gratitude, Healing, Inner Guidance, Life Coaching, Life Path, Love, Power Within, Relationship, Self-love, Transformation, Wisdom

the gospel of James Baldwin

I want to share a piece I was asked to write about my path to counseling and the work I am doing in my graduate program. My adviser nominated me to be featured in our department newsletter, which I found very touching and an honor. I wanted to use my story as a platform for something more meaningful than just simple autobiography. I hope the message resonates with some of you.

In the neighborhood of Saint-Germain-des-Pres, across from the oldest church in Paris, lively conversation spills out of the cafés whose tables clutter the sidewalks. I found myself there this past August, after a relationship breakup and an airline credit flew me over the Atlantic to wander over cobblestone, take in centuries of art and architecture, and soothe my heart with an abundance of chocolate croissants. One morning I decided to map out the addresses of old haunts and habitats of my first and most enduring love, James Baldwin. I made a path through Parisian districts that followed the traces of where he lived, loved, and worked. Baldwin, the iconic gay black writer with the wispy, melodic, and powerful voice, raised in a strict Pentecostal home in Harlem, lived as an expatriate in France for most of his adult years. On my walk I paused at and peered into the places where Baldwin wrote his novels, Go Tell it on the Mountain and Giovanni’s Room—bistros, like Café de Flor and Les Deux Magots. I stood at the doorstep of his first Paris apartment along the tiny passageway, Rue de Christine, my feet pressing into worn stone where Baldwin’s feet had landed decades before. This self-guided tour was a sort of a pilgrimage for me, one that began at age 17.

Twenty years ago my high school English teacher gave me a copy of Another Country. Her scrawl in the margins of the inside cover told me: “I know you will love the honesty and passion of Baldwin.” Ms. Hepburn was a small and fiery white woman with a zest for life and a love of justice. The summer after graduating high school, when she turned me onto Baldwin, Ms. Hepburn and I met a few times to talk books. She confided in me then, that she had long been living with a woman, her true love. In our small town in central New York, she hid the most sacred contours of her heart for fear of losing her job. I hid mine in a home whose message was: you are too much, too emotional, too sensitive.  Finally, in Baldwin’s fiction, I found in vivid and breathtaking detail, the intimate secrets and wild frontiers of our relational lives, our connections and ruptures—across race and sexualities—studied, exalted, and celebrated as the heart of what it is to be human.

I also found in Baldwin’s essays and fiction, a new world, or like his title says, another country. It was, to me, as KRS-One raps on the album, Edutainment: “The language of the people ready to hear the truth.” In schools and at home, through textbooks, teachers, family norms and cultural myths that are passed down, I had learned a story of our nation, one that was wholly different from the reality depicted in Baldwin’s books. His voice was my entry into a body of work by black artists, poets, authors, and musicians in whom I found refuge from the delusion of an American culture that acted as if white was the norm, the only subjective experience, one usually cut off from our hearts and bodies, and which flinched and recoiled at real conversations about racism, past and present.

As an undergrad, I studied the history and politics of race and completed an Urban Studies semester based in Chicago that included a 3 day intensive anti-racism training. I continued to devour Baldwin’s books. The Fire Next Time said it clearly: white people are “still trapped in a history which they do not understand; and until they understand it, they cannot be released from it.” Baldwin wrote of the past in an uncompromisingly candid yet compassionate tenor, understanding that no movement forward would be possible until we, as a society, acknowledged what we had allowed ourselves to become in upholding systems founded upon dehumanization—that we, in fact, were all dehumanized.

From the study of history in college and at the Masters level at the University of Illinois Chicago, to several years of clinic work at Planned Parenthood health centers in California, Chicago, and Chapel Hill, deep study of Buddhism and a side gig teaching moving meditation, and a foray into being a public librarian-activist and then case worker in social services, I finally made my way to NCSU’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling program in the Summer of 2016. Being a Masters student in the Counselor Education Department has nourished and affirmed everything that Ms. Hepburn and James Baldwin first awakened within me when I was 17.  It is powerful to be in a supportive community of peers and faculty, where my strengths are valued and I am encouraged to grow and flourish. I feel a sense of belonging in both my cohort and in the field of counseling, which at the intersection of my passion for personal transformation and healing; embodied, heart-centered, authentic connection; social change and multicultural community; embraces all of who I am and yet holds me accountable to who I want to become.

In Dr. Marc Grimmett, I have an advisor and mentor who models compassionate, whole-person care, and displays self-awareness and sensitivity to the contexts of power, access, and privilege in which we and clients are embedded. That he and Dr. Helen Lupton-Smith developed the Community Counseling, Education, and Research Clinic (CCERC) , as a model of affordable world-class health and wellness services to reach underserved populations was an enormous draw for me in selecting NCSU’s Master’s CMHC program. I am honored and excited to be joining their team for my practicum and internship starting in January 2017.

Perhaps most unexpected and rewarding to me, is that I have been able to bring my passion for history into my counseling education. For a class presentation in Dr. Grimmett’s Intro to Clinical Mental Health Counseling, I made a website exploring the connection of historical memory to healing and what I can do, as a white counselor, to take action in recovering the past and de-centering whiteness for integration of the collective psyche. The website, Counselors for Courage, Truth, and Justice (http://counselorsforcouragetruthjustice.weebly.com/), is an ongoing inquiry of how I, and other counselors, can help foster healing, justice, and community in a nation that has not adequately addressed its white supremacist foundations and our inheritance of pervasive racism. The project integrates liberation psychology, theories of counseling, research, and interviews, and offers suggestions for historically competent tools, counselor-facilitated community consciousness raising groups, and the creation of safe spaces for public remembering and grieving. Dr. Grimmett encouraged us to submit one of our class presentations as a conference proposal to the North Carolina Counseling Association (NCCA). My proposal, “Historical memory and healing the national psyche,” was accepted and I am looking forward to presenting this as a poster board session at the 2017 NCCA Conference in Durham this coming February.

NCSU’s Clinical Mental Health Counseling program and CCERC are exactly the settings I need to be in to become the kind of counselor I want to be. I’m eager to keep learning alongside and from fellow counseling students and professors and to find ways to build and broaden the multicultural community of care I experience here, out into the rest of the world. I see us, as NCSU counselors, carrying on James Baldwin’s s message of truth and love, for widespread healing and justice.

 

Compassion, Dreams, Emotions, Freedom, Healing, Life Coaching, Love, Meditation, Open, Power Within, Relationship, Sacred justice, Self-love, Soul, Suffering, Support, Tonglen, Transformation, Wisdom

A dream, deferred

It is normal for empathic people to feel emotional fatigue when reading the daily news cycle, or seeing video after video in our social media feed displaying global violence and chaos. Even more, for those who are among the populations who’ve consistently been targets of hate and rage, they may experience vicarious trauma and added fear for their safety in moving around the world. This can take a physical and psychological toll.

Even if we are not in a time of unprecedented violence, as some social historians argue, it sure can feel this way because our exposure to trauma occurs more rapidly and constantly.

girlOne piece of this is attending to the care of our souls and knowing when to take a break from technology and cynicism.

The other truth is somewhat paradoxical to the research that shows that today, more than ever before, we live in safer and more peaceful times overall, as a human community. There, at the same time, *is* a breaking point we are reaching. Someone in my Facebook feed posted this morning’s latest headline of Baton Rouge’s police killing with a comment that “this summer is filled with tragedy.” Tragedy, to be sure. But my first reaction was: No, this summer is filled with neglect. This is what happens when we do not respond to tragedy appropriately.

The Langston Hughes poem came to mind:

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

 Or does it explode?

The first instance of neglect comes from the residual economic inequality left over after the Civil Rights Movement’s many successes in extending voting rights and desegregating public spaces and schools. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. saw that his aims for true equality would not be realized until economic injustice was addressed–it was a campaign against poverty that Dr. King was devoting his life to when assassinated. We’ve chosen to memorialize his dream without ever achieving it. We’ve let his dream fester and sag even while posting inspirational memes with his face all over social media on January 16th, or as a retort to present-day activists.

Secondly, we have never collectively faced our history as a nation. Just as in spirituality, bypassing over pain to get to bliss does not work. We keep thinking we can skip over acknowledgment, apology, and reparations by telling people to “get over” something that has never truly ended or been redressed. Slavery took on more protean forms in the carceral system and engineered ghettoization in our American cities and endemic poverty in rural areas. We need truth and reconciliation. We have to move through the worst of our legacy to get to our best. We cannot keep trying to preserve an image of ourselves as liberal do-gooders or colorblind soldiers of love without facing the reality of the racist and classist systems of power and knowledge that we inherited.

The third act of neglect is when murder after murder is captured on video and nobody is held accountable–no individual, no system, no society.

The final form of neglect I want to address is that we neglect each other, our most powerless here and abroad, when we over-fund the military and under-fund education, healthcare, and education. When our politicians more vociferously protect gun ownership than they do safety and civil rights of the vulnerable, that is neglect.

Terribly, 3 police officers were killed today. (Did your hearts sink so much when, in one July weekend in Chicago, 60 people were shot?). This violence was not promoted, not sanctioned, not perpetuated by activists like Black Lives Matter, despite what the media wants to insinuate. But you know who does promote, sanction, and perpetrate such violence? We ALL do, all of us who choose separation over love, who want to be right more than we want understanding. We ALL do, who allow the structural violence and the unrelenting brutality of poverty and racism to continue without taking a stand for those living in such conditions, and without taking responsibility for helping to create those conditions.

When we show up, valuing all lives–not just the white or the wealthy or the powerful, but the black and brown and poor and disaffected–home by home, neighborhood by neighborhood, then the culture may change. Let’s take care of ourselves and each other.

meditationtUntil then, it may not be so surprising that the dream, deferred, will explode.

I want to end this post with 2 pieces you can practice:

1. Tonglen–breathe in the world’s suffering (grief, fear, pain, stress)–on behalf of those hurting, take it on with a deep inhale, breathe out fierce love and compassion and relief to all in pain. Keep going…any positive return you receive from this meditation, breathe it right back out to those who need it, while continuing to breathe in all remaining pain.

2. Show up fully to every interaction with empathy on full-blast, looking out for opportunities to serve and be present for those in need, even in the smallest ways. When things are quiet and you are alone at home–turn that empathy inward, on yourself. Do tears come up? Sadness? Allow life to flow through you while loving all of it, all of you.

Celebration, Compassion, Emotions, Freedom, Healing, Life Coaching, Love, Meditation, Mindfulness, Open, Personal Growth, Power Within, Spiritual Activism, Spirituality, Suffering, Transformation

On suffering and the overcoming of it.

When I look at the tragic photos and news, I see both the horrors of the bombs and shootings and the thousands of helpers who have rushed in to care for all the suffering. It shows that the world has both suffering and the overcoming of it. It is in the overcoming of it that we are called to respond.
–Jack Kornfield on Paris attacks, November 2015

 

wall-1405964_1920US primary politics. Orlando. Brexit. Blocked immigration reform. Istanbul.

With distressing and heartbreaking headlines in the news, compounded with our own personal challenges, these past few weeks have been a time of heaviness and high emotions for many. Despite or maybe because of these private losses and tragic world events, I decided to focus on the small daily things that bring me joy or inspire me: the Carolina wren scaling my window screen in the morning, the scent of gardenias in front of my apartment, the outpouring of love after the Pulse tragedy and the music that love brought to me in the form of a mix made by a Chicago friend, and many moments of connection shared with loved ones and animals.

I acknowledge and allow the grief and heartache, while also doing my best to not add more suffering to the world. Following the lead of one of the women who I coach in an online women’s support network, who vowed to not get embroiled in heated social media debates that would do little to change policy yet do much to create stress and bitterness, I refrained, as well, and practiced privately sending compassion to each person who posted a view opposing mine online.

I understand why some cannot move beyond grief, fear, and anger. Particularly those whose communities are at the center of tragedies, bloodshed, or political upheaval. I, myself, treasure my own early experiences in gay bars. In the late 90s, the Hide and Seek in Colorado Springs, offered a glimpse into what beautiful worlds are possible when people are free to be themselves, living out their own personal style, flair, and fabulousness. The bar, and those I danced with there–the tight-knit friend group I found in undergrad–introduced me to brave love, universal acceptance, embodied sexuality, and authentic living. And even as I comprehend how grossly this sacrosanct experience was violated, I still choose to live in the celebratory space of my own queer heart that was raised lovingly during late nights at the Hide and Seek, by college friends in the LGBTQ community, and the fairy godnurturing queer friends of my early 20s, like T, who shared my love of girl groups and made me feel Supreme.

We do not need to wilt or shrivel when these horrors happen. We can mobilize for change, we can show up for others in need, and we can live our lives by following the lead of those who dance in the night–loving our own bodies loving other bodies, uplifted, buoyed, and emboldened by solidarity. It’s what happens when we totally embrace and inhabit who we are, and allow ourselves to be loved in a radically open and nonjudgmental way. Not to paint a naively Utopian picture or diminish the high rates of suicide, terror and discrimination facing LGBTQ people, but at their best, this is what queer spaces create: collective, often joyful, overcoming of suffering.

Overcoming does not mean we won’t feel the pain any less, or that we aren’t aware of our broken hearts–it is that we have learned to use that heartache to connect with ourselves and others. Vulnerability can bring us more deeply into the human experience and allows us to love that much more fiercely and compassionately.

We can do our own spiritual work that attends to the overcoming of suffering–the more practiced we are, personally, in the overcoming, the more we can share and serve others in healing themselves, as well. This is worthy work: your personal growth and transformation. It ripples out and allows you to show up strong for a weary world. You loving yourself without apology may give someone else permission to reveal who they are. Even better when we have strength in numbers. Find others around you who are willing to live courageously, wholeheartedly, and come together to create our world anew…we need you!

Celebration, Discernment, Dreams, grounding, Journal, Life Coaching, Life Path, Love, Open, Personal Growth, Power Within, Relationship, Soul, Spirituality, Support, Uncategorized, Wisdom

Spiritual Dream Team

This week I invited the women who participate in my Whole Healthy Living online support group to harness the power and energy of the most amazing women they know, as a collective of psychic support for body, mind, soul.

We’ve been focusing on journaling for the past few weeks and I wanted to share an exercise I’ve found helpful that my therapist shared with me. This is imagining and connecting to a few people who have your back and bringing them into your life, energetically, when you need! To turn this into a deeper journal practice, I added some more content. Check it out!

Who are the women you would pick to be on your spiritual dream team?

mystical-woman-huebner-7

A brain trust is a group of advisers and experts. Say you could have a brain, heart, and soul trust for life…who would you choose to be there for you? Who do you want with you as you move through life’s celebrations and challenges…and why are they there?

They may be women whose wisdom or insight supports you or challenges you, women who inspire you for their enthusiasm or energy, women who live boldly, embodied…who have been loyal friends. Whatever the reason, make a list of 12-20 women who you choose to be on your dream team. They may be real or fictional, living or passed on. These are the women you want with you, by your side, energetically. Women you can call upon in need for their clarity, strength, softness, kindness, etc. You decide.

Now next to their names, list the 3-5 traits they have that made you put the on your team.

So your page should have 2 columns

Name                                                                  |                      Why I want them on my team

1.
2.
3. and so on…

When you’ve finished writing down the qualities of your dream team members, see if you notice the themes that make up your community. What does it take for someone to be worthy of your appreciation, respect, or admiration?

You can take it further by reflecting on some examples when you showed up with these same traits and realize how, for those same reasons, you might be on someone else’s dream team. Write some thoughts about how you’ve had some of those qualities you most admire. Celebrate you and your community.

Celebration, Emotions, Gratitude, grounding, Joy, Power Within, Soul, Winter

Skip the Eggnog. Drink in the Gratitude.

(okay, you can have eggnog, too)

For those of you who don’t know, I collaborate on a project with a community of fabulous ladies called The Coaches Table. Each month we tackle a topic and invite you to share your thoughts and reflections, as well, to create connection and meaningful conversation. The holiday season has been quiet over on our Facebook page, but hopefully this video will start a bit of end-of-year discussion.

The topic for December: Gratitude.

When remembrance of loved ones who have passed, family stress, holiday expectations, or sugar crashes get you down, call in gratitude! What are you grateful for?

 

Dreams, Intention, Meditation, Open, Personal Growth, Power Within, Silence, Soul, Spirituality, Transformation, Wisdom

The Magic of Rebirth in Every Moment

Yesterday, after a trip back from the store and my beau’s house down the street, I walked, distracted by thoughts, towards my stairwell.  I was calling my dog in from the wooded wild that faces my apartment when, in the shadowy dark of evening, perched breathtakingly close to me, was the majestic barred owl.whooo

I stopped in my tracks and snapped out of thinking, overtaken by its quiet, powerful presence. In resplendent stillness, it sat with its enormous eyes fixed–it felt as though–right on me. Suddenly, it swooped over to a branch on a nearby tree and continued its hypnotizing stare. I stood under its watch, immobilized, in awe. A wave of giddy excitement cut through me and I broke my gaze to search out a friend who lives downstairs. I wanted her to come share the moment with me. She is someone who I know loves owls, but mostly my motives were selfish–I wanted someone to affirm and witness the wonder and mystery of the moment with me. In my glee, I didn’t even notice her car’s absence–so, I was to be alone with owl (excepting my dog–who whimpers, growls, and whines at the 3 am hooting that often emerges from the forest, but in its stunning silence, my lil Yoko was oblivious.)

Owls signify many things according to varying traditions, cultures, mythology. While I refrain from using language like “spirit animal,” as it feels like cultural appropriation (often made as a casual and superficial reference out of context from its deep meanings and specific cultural origins of which I am an outsider). However, I do resonate with and sense the personal and beyond-personal symbolism of owls. Intuition, wisdom, clear seeing, and a harbinger of change and death.

Mainstream culture can tend to avoid and even recoil at the reality of death. Death is an ending, and along with grief, disorientation, and loss is also the space to dream, create, and break through to the new, to experience rebirth–in this moment, and the next. When we die to the past we open up and are free from beliefs or identities telling us what we can or can’t do or be.

Each moment is an opportunity to start over. To drop the thoughts, the stories, the patterns that keep us fearful, small, or stuck. Not that we are reborn into a blissed out utopian dimension free from fear or stress or human problems, but we no longer let fear guide us or make for us choices that try to protect and keep us safe, but often limit our power and possibilities. Or when we do, we wake up and get the chance to change course and re-calibrate with compassion for the fear and the mis-steps and with courage for moving through it.

I gave my notice at work nearly 2 weeks ago and am approaching the end of my 3 years of working in social services. But this is the smallest of the changes I need to face. What about stepping into my dreams of what is next? What about believing in my unique voice and contributions? What about cutting the crap out that keeps me procrastinating and delaying bold and big action? What about being brave? What about living as if I already am the strong & soulful woman I imagine I want to be?

For me this means the following:

I,

  • make choices in integrity with who I know I can be–the me who is choosing from Love, not fear, the me who is generous, brave, and lives from inner guidance
  • take spiritual and emotional risks in order to grow, even if it feels scary, hard, and painful
  • take a month off from social media to reconnect to the kinds of modes of connection that sustained + nurtured me pre-2.0 (letters, meditation, walks in the woods, time in person with friends and loved ones)
  • throw myself into my passions and spend time each day doing the work that makes the dream possible
  • stop hiding who I am or making myself smaller or “nicer” to be liked
  • call on owl energy and let it serve as a reminder to stay open to change, to trust intuition, to see beyond what my mind thinks is real or possible

What about you? Do you have a list of things you can start or stop doing NOW to move more into the you whom you dream of being one day in the future? What is dying so that something new can be born within you? What is possible for you in the next moment, if you drop a pattern or an old way of being? What is possible if you live as if you know you are already magnificently brilliant and living your purpose? Each moment is an opportunity to reclaim your magic.

Have a list? I’d love to hear what you come up with!

Balance, Compassion, Curiosity, Discernment, Dreams, Experimentation, Freedom, grounding, Intention, Life Coaching, Mindfulness, Power Within, Self-love, Soul, Spirituality, Whole Body, Wisdom

Balanced Living Part 2: Steps Towards Sanity

As I shared in my previous post, if we can move from the myth that balance is a state at which we will finally arrive and once and for all, figure out, then we can instead embrace living each day as an intentional practice of balancing. I want to offer some tips on how to bring more of a sense of ease around the goal of balance.

First, I want to check in. What does balance even mean to you? “Work/life balance” is a bit of a buzz phrase these days and we can easily assume we know what it means without examining it more closely. What aspects of balance, if any, are important to us?  Balance usually doesn’t mean literally spending an equal amount of time at work as we do in our personal life.  Fundamentally, this whole phrase “work-life” balance seems to set up a false dichotomy between who we are at the workplace and who we are outside of the office. Indeed, the more we can merge those two seemingly separate worlds into one–as in our most cherished goals, values, and dreams are being played out in all that we do, whether in career or in friendships and our homes, the more of a sense of balance we tend to feel.

sunglow

What is this for you? What intention would you set to inform how you live your life wherever you are and whatever you are doing. I aim to live in embodied presence, openness, and compassion at my day job and at night. There are choices I can make day to day to encourage that approach to living. What feels like balance to you? What synonyms might resonate with you that get to the heart of what balance means for you, personally? Present, centered, calm, relaxed, integrated, whole, alive?

(R you ready?) Here are 7 steps you can take towards living a daily life of balance.

  • Refine –Get clarity on what balance means to you. What are the particular qualities of feeling balanced, for you?  What are the activities and values that support that? What are some choices you could make, starting now, to bring the qualities of balance into your life. Does meditation help ground and center? A regular fitness routine? Whole nutrition and lots of water intake? Laughs with family? Hikes or  yoga or knitting? Are there things you’ve not been doing that really would contribute to more of a sense of balance? Do some journaling about what you’d like to bring more of into your life.
  • Reflect –Track everything you do for a day and create a list or pie chart that measures out how you spend your time. Minutes on social media, moments of worry or rumination, hours sleeping, time working on creative projects, exercising, etc. Are there ways you are spending time that don’t actually support your sense of balance? If there are activities that drain you of energy, what steps can you take towards letting those go?
  • Refuse –Now that you know what balance is for you, learn to say “No,” to requests that do not align with that. This could mean setting boundaries around your time and space, or resisting impulses and urges to zone out online or with TV. Be intentional about each choice you make and how it fits into your priorities. It is okay to say “No” without offering any justification for why. Be strong and clear in knowing that how you spend your time matters, so that you can show up fully invested and present in all you do because you’ve chosen to be there, in full awareness of how it fits into your intentions.
  • Rethink –Are there errands that you are running randomly throughout the week that cause you to take multiple trips in the same direction? Be strategic with your errands and find a way to consolidate driving (busing/walking/subwaying) out to get things during the same visit. Could you ask for support to lighten the load or help with chores?
  • Refrain–Take a vacation from complaining. It is natural to want to vent and can be helpful to feel and express our emotions. However, getting stuck in a loop about how busy and overwhelmed we are or how hectic life is can heighten our overwhelm and reinforces a story that we are powerless to direct our daily choices and how they affect us. Notice when you tend to go into that thought pattern and interrupt it. Focus on the why of what you are doing and talk about that instead. Shift your perspective from complaining about what you are doing to celebrating the why behind it. I care about going to work, for instance, because it sustains my beautiful and nurturing home and it allows me to contribute to my community. Even in the moments I don’t enjoy it, it is showing me how to move closer to work I love.
  • Relax –Schedule downtime in your calendar/planner/to-do list so that you guarantee yourself space in your day to do nothing. Even if a day looks to be full…find the 15 minutes or half hour. Protect that time as if it were any other commitment.
  • Remember –You are human, you are alive. Our worlds are in constant change, the amount of activity and intensity ebbs and flows. Accept that sometimes we will feel pressure and stress and that is not a sign that we are failing or doing something wrong.  There are ways to encourage calm during the chaos. Go to what makes you reconnect to who you are underneath the noise, to-do lists, and demands. Breathe in the air of being you, being here. Know you are doing great work!

beinghere

Balance, Curiosity, Dancing is Healing, Dreams, Embodiment, Experimentation, Freedom, grounding, Life Coaching, Mindfulness, Movement, Open, Personal Growth, Play, Power Within, Transformation, Whole Body

Balanced Living Part 1: Myth Busting

Who here practices yoga?

You know tree pose? Or vrkasana in sanskrit? Non-yogis: imagine rooting one foot into the ground and balancing on that side while your other leg folds up so that the foot can lay flat on the inner thigh of your standing leg. You are grounded to the earth and lifting up– long spine, chest open, arms out wide like tree branches, or palms together in prayer at your heart. Eyes fixed on a still point to help focus the mind.

5798315823_19a54c728a_zEven in the most expert and balanced version of this, there is movement. Some of us feel trembling in the leg, some shakiness in our arms. We may fall out of the pose and re-center to move back into balance. Then there is the rising and falling of breath, the micro-movements and tiny imperceptible adjustments to continually tweak and maintain strength and stability in the posture.

And yet in life, we often do not see balance like this–as a dynamic and ever-shifting process. Many clients come to coaching seeking balance as if it were a place they will finally land, a state at which they will arrive or a magic formula they will figure out…never to be overwhelmed, exhausted, or thrown off course again.

It can feel super challenging to do all the things we need and want to do in our days while also getting the sleep, nutrition, exercise, and time to relax that we need.

I want to offer some strategy and perspective to help. The very first is dropping the expectation that there will be a time when we will just get it and forever be balanced. Life is fluid and full of change…we can approach balance as something that we, everyday, recommit to moving toward and dancing with. We set our intentions and move consciously throughout our day, deciding what is truly needed in each moment. Breathing into our legs and lungs and making adjustments to stay clear, centered, and sane.

We can create more ease, be more clear on what our priorities are, and practice more presence. Yet moving towards balance does not mean we can eliminate uncomfortable feelings or stress or reach some final perfected equilibrium. More so, dancing with balance means we won’t get so rattled or discouraged by our challenges or by waves of chaotic energy. We will pay attention to our limits, know the signs of when to stop, and take steps to best nurture and care for ourselves. We honor our wholeness in all our decisions, and consciously choose how we spend our time and energy.

Next post: I will share more on how to stop chasing balance and how to live in the dynamic dance of balancing.

For now…

Homework PLAY:

Create a dance move that expresses your relationship with balance in your life right now…the dance may change, but now, what does it look like? What does it feel like in your body? Choose a theme song and do your balance dance movement to it! What did you come up with?

Compassion, Discernment, Emotions, Healing, Life Coaching, Mindfulness, Power Within, Radical Acceptance, Relationship, Self-love, travel

family first aid

 

don’t get tangled in your family’s tree. listen to this audio on ways to stay sane while visiting family.

some nuggets

1. bring something from your home that reminds you of who you are–whole, complete, adult, or find a meditation that connects you to your center that you can use as a go-to when feeling shaky

2. bring a distracting or comfort activity to soothe yourself and engage your senses (for me it was a mandala coloring book with colored pencils)

3. find a way to stay connected to your community and chosen family while far away from them, such as scheduling a check in phone call for support, bringing notes of encouragement from friends, photos

4. create space for yourself to have time on your own and set appropriate boundaries

5. accept that your family members are who they are and how they are…don’t set yourself up for disappointment by expecting them to show up differently

6. keep noticing that you are breathing deeply and taking care of your needs as best you can in the situation

any other ideas?