What Life Belongs To

What Life Belongs To

Somehow it is well into 2018 already. February will be over before we know it, and I finally feel better, almost like myself again. I wonder where the fall and early winter went, or where I was for them.  I am glad to be here now. It feels a little like waking up from a dream, the scary or depressing kind that you are ready to leave behind.  The issues that came to light during my illness haven’t just gone away, so I must be diligent about continue to look at them: the need to be in control, to ask for and accept support, to be viewed as competent and in the know, the constant push to do more and be more. Maybe it helps just to have clarified the issues and to have called them out.  The work is not done, but perhaps there is a bit of a path now.

Skiing and walking outside these past few weeks, now that I feel up to it, has been a reminder that I am most content when being present with myself, others, and the natural things of the world. Moving through a snowy and quiet forest, tromping with my daughter around a blindingly white lake, following a deer path along an icy ridge-line, all while breathing in the cold and clear air — these things are what is real and what matters. It’s not the photo I take or the likes that it gets on instagram, or the new followers that it entices to join the crowd. It’s the actual experience.  This is obvious, but I think it’s easy for us to forget that in this social media driven culture that we have found ourselves fully invested in.  I need to check myself regularly – it’s so easy to get sucked into the allure of virtual validation.  Continue reading “What Life Belongs To”

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What Would You Do If Money Were No Object?

What Would You Do If Money Were No Object?

Alan Watts likes to ask his students, when doing career counseling, “What would you do if money were no object?” He hopes to get them thinking about what they really enjoy about life, what pursuits they truly want to devote energy toward, and how they want to spend their days.  Because after all, “what we do with our days is what we do with our lives.” (Annie Dillard)

On one hand, it is quite important to ask ourselves what we would do if we didn’t need to earn money.  When we do that, we tap into the things that drive us to align our actions with our values, we find meaning in the everyday, and we teach our children to do the same.  And a society full of people who are doing what they feel called to do is one that is setting itself up for a foundation of peace and vitality.  …

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Returning to our Roots: Healing Healthcare

Returning to our Roots: Healing Healthcare

Being a yoga teacher [or a wellness coach] is similar to being a physician [i.e. one that is invested in healing, not keeping business good]: my mission is to find the origination of my clients’ problems and help my clients heal themselves, so I can send them on their way, out in the world with the ability to maintain their health, on their own.

~Rebecca Lammersen

It’s not about business or client retention or making more money than we did last year.  Sure, on some level it is important to create business and have clients and keep them around long enough for everyone involved to benefit in the ways that matter.  But these days, it seems that the ever important dollar gets the final say more than anything else.  Pulling a profit that’s bigger than before takes priority, and we tell ourselves that if business is booming, well, we can help more people.  In some ways, it’s true.  We can try to keep clients coming back for as long as possible, plant the seeds of positive change, treat the disorder with a pill, and along the way help the bottom line.  Everybody wins, right?

In this world we live in, money is important.  You might know this already.  Depending on where we live and what sort of lifestyle we are aiming for or born into, we need a certain minimum of incoming cash flow to thrive.  Living on the planet comes with a price tag for most people in the modern world.  So, while money is obviously important, I might dare to say that authenticity is more so.  I don’t know about you, but I’m not super interested in working with someone who doesn’t really want to interact with me, or only does so out of fear or guilt or whatever other reasons people do things that they aren’t intrinsically motivated to do.  People can benefit from programs and classes and 1:1 appointments, absolutely.  That’s not my issue today.  My issue today is that yoga and wellness coaching and health care, at the core,  is about healing. It’s about honoring the process. It’s about authentic ways of being together and in the world that increase beauty and take energy away from destruction.  Too often our culture has lost sight of that.  Too often we hook people and try to convince them that they need us forever.  Too often we become part of the message of lack. Continue reading “Returning to our Roots: Healing Healthcare”

Sabbath

Sabbath

Yesterday afternoon I didn’t do anything.  And by “anything” I mean I didn’t do anything that I would typically count as “productive.”  I wasn’t at work, and my two year old was napping.  I didn’t cook dinner, I didn’t do the laundry, I didn’t work on any projects, I didn’t practice yoga, I didn’t plan the upcoming weekend.  I didn’t do any of the things that I usually do when I have an hour or two of time on my hands.  Instead I sat at the kitchen table with a glass of wine and looked out the window.   The lake was glassy and starting to reflect the late afternoon sunset as dusk claimed ownership of the day’s light.  The wind of earlier in the day was starting to settle, and the newly fallen leaves lay still, a carpet of yellow and orange and red on the ground.  At one point a seagull called out and circled the lake, a spot of bright white against the muted, hazy tones of the landscape.  Everything was quiet.

At first I felt that familiar sense of guilt for not using my time to address the next item on the never ending task list – in the fall, it’s even longer than usual with the seasonal tasks of gathering firewood, putting up the last of the garden produce, getting the garden ready for winter, raking leaves, winterizing motors, and all the other things that need to happen for a rural household to welcome the winter elements in Minnesota.   And there are of course the tasks of daily life always waiting in the wings: Food to prepare, dishes to wash, floors to clean, errands to run.  It is all too easy to fall prey to the energy of guilt, self condemnation and plain old worry.

“What if I’m not ready for what comes next?”

“What if I fail to do what my loved ones expect/need me to do?”

“What if we never finish the list?”

Well.  These questions, much like the dreaded “list” could go on for pages.  For all the questions that I could come up with, the answer – if I’m really being truthful with myself – is, “So what?” As I was sitting there, looking over the lake and taking in the stillness of the moments as they passed, I was somehow able to see over the what ifs into the present.  I could see that my taking an hour to just sit still and be wasn’t going to lead to the demise of ……….. well, anything.  Perhaps it will take one more day to get all the apples turned into sauce.   Perhaps the leaves will pile up and mat down the grass for more days in a row than would be ideal.  Perhaps while I sip my wine,  a detail will slide by into oblivion, never to be attended to.   Perhaps the world will go on.

I wouldn’t want to have day after day of sitting at the kitchen table drinking wine.  Things will still need to get accomplished,  and I will still be happier when the dishes are clean, I’ve practiced yoga and the laundry is folded instead of in a heap on the bed.   But taking time to just sit and be with the quiet of an afternoon is necessary, too.  Most of us need to feel like things are getting done to be content – but we also need to observe time for rest so we can work another day.  After all, isn’t that what we are working for?  To be in the world in a way that invites contentment and peace for all living things?  Maybe we need to remember to observe what we are working toward in the first place.

How can you build a Sabbath into your week?

Sabbath observance invites us to stop. It invites us to rest. It asks us to notice that while we rest, the world continues without our help. It invites us to delight in the world’s beauty and abundance.  Wendell Berry

The Other Side of Positivity

The Other Side of Positivity

Oliver Burkeman, author of The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking writes:

Research] points to an alternative approach: a ‘negative path’ to happiness that entails taking a radically different stance towards those things most of us spend our lives trying hard to avoid. This involves learning to enjoy uncertainty, embracing insecurity and becoming familiar with failure. In order to be truly happy, it turns out, we might actually need to be willing to experience more negative emotions – or, at the very least, to stop running quite so hard from them.

In a society that promotes “the pursuit of happiness,” “looking on the bright side,” and “noticing the silver lining,” this idea might seem a bit off the mark at first glance.  But what if Mr. Burkeman has a point?  Perhaps when we let our experiences – all of them – be what they are without always trying to find the positive, we are more apt to finally see the joy that sometimes lurks just outside of our sightlines.

What do you think?  Can we overdo positive thinking?  What’s the best balance for you?

BURNOUT

BURNOUT

What causes burnout? Long hours, a job that is too challenging or not challenging enough, monotony, a long winter, a disconnect between the employer and employee values, being in a caregiver role, always being the one to ask “how are you today?” and responding appropriately to whatever response is provided……the list could get pretty long.  Whatever the root cause, burnout can have a lot of impact on day to day life.  According to psychologist Herbert J. Freudenberger, who coined the term in 1972, burnout is a state of fatigue or frustration brought about by a devotion to a cause, a way of life, or a relationship that has failed to produce the expected reward. Burnout is essentially a condition caused by passion and good intentions that have absorbed everything that is available to give.

 Burnout is about not enough. Being burned out means feeling empty, devoid of motivation, and beyond caring. People experiencing burnout often don’t see any hope of positive change in their situations. If excessive stress is like drowning in responsibilities, burnout is being all dried up.  – Helpguide.org. (Melinda Smith, M.A., Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., and Robert Segal, M.A)

My day job is to support people as they figure out how to live in a healthy way.  I’ve been in my current position for exactly seven years, and though I truly value the relationships that I have with the people I interact with and can see the reason for most of the less glamorous job tasks that are required, last week I hit a bit of a wall.   And when I say “hit a wall” I mean in a head on collision, can’t function kind of way.  I just couldn’t do it anymore.  So I spent the two days I took off work sleeping, getting a haircut that was two years overdue, walking along my favorite creek bed and doing yoga.   I feel better after four days away from the office, but it’s not gone yet.  My next step is going to be figuring out how to take some more time off.  We’ll see how that goes.  The good news is that my light is flickering on again, even if it’s dim.

Once we identify that we are experiencing signs of burnout and acknowledge what is going on, we can take strides to change what can be changed, accept what needs to be accepted, and shift our focus to remembering what really matters in life.  We can prioritize what is going to allow us live in a way that honors what we value. We can look the fear of ‘feeling burnt out forever’ in the face and see all the beauty that is still there, just under the surface.  Just past the strong front that we put up on good days.  Just behind the expectations we hold for ourselves without even recognizing their loftiness.

We can remember why we have been so devoted, and we can remember that to be devoted – to anything – we have to take care of our own needs.

For me, some of the important things to priotitize are spending time with my family, having authentic conversations with people, being outside, growing and cooking food, hearing my daughter giggle, digging in the garden and watching the sunrise.  When I can remember that those things are what matter to me (which can be REALLY hard to do when feelings of burnout have clouded everything else) I can break through the film of melancholy.  I can see past the frustration, fatigue and dread of the everyday.  And I can remember that I have a choice to let those feelings control my life, or I can look at them, accept them, and allow them to dissolve in whatever way they need to.

Burnout isn’t a nice place to be.  But it doesn’t have to be the landing place.

                                                                                                                                            

If you think you might be experiencing burnout, take a look at the following lists.

Signs of burnout can include:

􀂃-Emotions: anger, frustration, depression

􀂃- Impatience

􀂃 -Heightened fatigue

􀂃  -Melancholy

􀂃  -Ambivalence

􀂃  -Lack of interest in things you used to really find intriguing

􀂃  -Short term memory loss

􀂃  -Feelings of dread

􀂃  -Self-medication

􀂃  -Nightmares

􀂃  -Difficulty making decisions

􀂃  -Working at 120% then dropping to nothing

􀂃  -Not caring about something that usually matters a lot

Burnout prevention & self care strategies may include:

􀂃-Know yourself. Figure out what your values are.

􀂃-Create a support system.  And use it.  Ask for help.  Accept help when offered.

􀂃-Maintain a schedule that supports the lifestyle you want to live.

􀂃-Do three things per day that you truly enjoy. Even you only have time for three one minute things.

􀂃-Honor your wellness priorities: Keep running, do your yoga, eat your veggies, get your rest.

􀂃-Stay stimulated with learning. But accept that you don’t have to know everything.

􀂃-Take time off.

􀂃-Get 15 minutes of natural light (more is better) every day.  Even on rainy ones.

We all have a pilot light that doesn’t go out permanantly.  There is light to be found even on the rainy days.

Additional burnout resources are available from these sources:

Compassion Fatigue

Burnout Overview from Mayo Clinic

 

Finding Our Balance

Finding Our Balance

There has been a lot going on lately.  So many people I encounter say this, or allude to it, regardless of their life situation – poor, wealthy, middle class; student, teacher, parent; volunteer or employee; retiree or entry level worker.  The pace of life is fast, quickening even as these words are typed.  It would seem that all people are busy, constantly.

Yet steeped in the busyness, systems are changing, albeit slowly.  A lot of energy is being projected into helping the population interact in a different, more positive and healthy way, and a project of that scale takes time and effort.  Even those who do not recognize or believe that anything is different put a lot of time and effort into completing their usual tasks and going about their daily routines.  Work hours are long, jobs feel tedious, values are tested, traffic is bad, cities are congested and the kids have music lessons, sports, church activities, tutoring sessions, and homework.  All of which they need help with, or a ride to.  The driveway has to be shoveled and the dishes washed.  Things take longer than anticipated and many times don’t go quite as planned.  So, regardless of state of being or level of awareness, people are generally busy and have too much to do.

How can we find a sense of balance amidst the energy that needs to be put out? How do we maintain our equilibrium when putting forth the energy that must back the tasks that need to be accomplished, the ideas that need to be thought of and implemented, and the hours of work that are necessary to move this planet into a way of existing that is sustainable and life giving for all? How can we take the ashes of failure and see an opportunity to know beauty in a completely different way?

For positive change to occur, we will all need to contribute and use our unique gifts to serve the collective.  We will need to step outside of our individual needs and into our neighbors’.  We will need to figure out how to operate cooperatively after so many years of competition.  We will need to let go of needing more.  Even the Joneses can’t sustain their pace forever.  We will need to accept sadness and allow joy to radiate from places of darkness.  The road into the light, while welcoming and full of joy, is not without rocks, bumps and the occasional uphill stretch.

It sounds daunting, and maybe it is.  But I think we can find our balance amidst the rocks, the uphill stretches and the energy needed to sustain momentum by remembering what is driving us to do the work in the first place.  We can remember the vision of an earth that is defined by beauty, equality and peace.  We can remember that this vision will not look the same to everyone, and that it doesn’t have to.  As we project the energy of love and joy into the space that surrounds every action and thought we will get where we are called to be, even if the road looks different than we thought it would.  And we can use the empty space that exists around the work doing and being whatever it is that makes life real for us.

So take your life situation for what it is -a situation – instead of a sentence or definition; busy or not, and let it be a way for your Being, your true self, to experience all that is worth experiencing. Walk through a grove of aspen trees, stand in a ray of sunlight in the middle of the city, marvel at the way your physical body helps you carry out the mission of your soul.  Focus.  Spend time loving the present.  Take some time off if serves you.  Enjoy silence.  Be loud when being loud helps.  Dance with your baby, talk to your neighbor, let the snow or rain melt into your skin and see the art in the world. Look past the to-do list to what is.

Find your balance, and honor it.

Life evolves and is a living organism that can recreate itself. But this will not be an easy transition, because our world is so out of balance. Our civilization has been running on empty for too long, our way of life too unsustainable. If we continue our future is too bleak, the inner emptiness too desolate. In pursuit of a few material pleasures we will have lost what is most precious and most meaningful in our existence. We will have to confront our fears and our weaknesses, find courage that we did not know we had. Nor do we know how long this transition may take. We may be just creating the seeds for a future that will blossom in a hundred years or more. But with grace, commitment and care, with a heart open to grief and to love, life can once again regenerate—together we can create a way of life that is truly sustainable. The light of the sacred will rekindle, and once again the soul of the world will sing the song of creation: the hidden mystery within all of life.

—Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee