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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It’s Only A Door

It’s Only A Door

“The door itself
makes no promises.
It is only a door”
~Adrienne Rich

Crossing that thresold into your uncharted future is an act of great courage and self compassion, and it changes your relationship to life in a fundamental way. It embodies your willingness to employ a new form of risk taking, to consciously choose growth-stimulating, soul-nourishing conflicts, to live through the accompanying anxiety, and to accept your life as open ended and unpredictable. Passing through the door commits you to living in the present in a way you never before have.  ~Bill Plotkin, Soulcraft

Have you seen that movie, Sliding Doors?  I have to admit that I don’t really remember the plot very well, other than in tandem story lines, Gwyneth Paltrow’s character misses her train by seconds as the doors slide shut in one and in the other she makes it and goes on with her day as planned.  Her choices as a result of missing the train and going through a different door alter the course of her life almost beyond recognition.  In the movie, at least as I remember it, she doesn’t consciously choose to miss the train of course.  But she does and goes through a different door that she normally would have chosen, and we see the chain reaction of events that emerge.  It can be a scary thing, a door.  An unwanted thing.  And it can be life changing. Continue reading “It’s Only A Door”

On Being

On Being

When I was trained as a coach 8.5 years ago, one of the things that stuck with me the most was the emphasis on helping a person see who they are “being” – that is to say, helping each individual look past the surface doings into how he/she is showing up and how that way of being is effecting their choices.

I read an article by coach and writer Danielle van de Kemenade this morning, and her words resonated with me a lot:

The biggest impact I’ve been able to make in my clients’ lives is on their states of being rather than changed acts of doing. The coaching paradigm itself is perhaps the best way of exemplifying the belief in doing as a primary method to achieving a better way of being. After each session, I’ll ask my clients to come up with five things they’ll do between our sessions to start to move towards greater personal well-being.

Fundamental to all of the above seems to be this thought: I’ll be a better, happier, more fulfilled person through more (focused) doing. I do (or have done), therefore I am. And yet, lately my views on this have started to shift, subtly.

Perhaps one of humanity’s challenges this century won’t necessarily be to do more better and faster, but to refine our ways of being and to let our actions flow from this.

On one hand you might think, “Wait, that doesn’t quite jive with what we are trying to do with small steps.  Isn’t the goal to help people make tiny changes that will eventually lead to lasting health improvements and better well being?” Continue reading “On Being”

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”

Own Your Story: Managing Stress in Three “Easy” Steps

Own Your Story: Managing Stress in Three “Easy” Steps

Stress.  It’s something that every living being experiences.  From animals to plants to humans, stress is a part of life on this planet.  A zebra experiences stress when a lion springs from the bushes: that rush of adrenaline and cortisol that fuel the instinct to flee keeps the zebra alive for another day.  A plant in the garden experiences stress when the weather is hot and windy or cold and too damp: the resiliency that is built due to these conditions helps the plant to thrive when conditions evolve.  Much like in the zebra’s story, a human can experience stress when life is physically threatened whether that threat comes via a gunman, a grizzly bear or an icy road.  The heart races, palms get sweaty and all we can think about is the crisis at hand.  We react. And that reaction to a life or death threat is necessary for survival in such cases.

However, in our modern societies today, we generally experience significantly less life or death stress than our hunter/gatherer ancestors did.  For most of us, stress arises when we perceive a situation to be stressful and when we let our perception hijack our response.  There are challenges galore in a human life – that goes without saying.  Schedules are tight, communications with loved ones or colleagues or neighbors are strained or non-existent, traffic is bad and there are too many bills to pay.  But are they life or death situations?  Usually not.  Yet they often trigger the same fear or stress response:  Our hearts race, palms get sweaty and all we can think about is the crisis at hand.  We react.  But in this case, our reaction is not helping us to survive: in fact, it might even be causing damage to our health in the form of elevated blood pressure, chronic tension headaches or inability to get quality sleep. In today’s modern culture, particularly in the corporate workforce, values of more, better, faster have invited everything from chronic stress to burnout to a general disliking of Mondays. When we view the world as an emergency room, our stress levels soar.  But when we can really see what’s going on, we regain a sense of control and peace. Continue reading “Own Your Story: Managing Stress in Three “Easy” Steps”

The Need For Magic

The Need For Magic

In order to free our world from its present nightmare of materialism and exploitation, we need a new story—a story of oneness and interdependence, of cooperation rather than competition. But to make this transition we need a power, the magic that belongs to life itself. How can we find this magic to give birth to a new story of oneness, of the earth as a living, self-sustaining whole, full of beauty and wonder?  

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee goes on to say, “The next story is not going to be just a human story, and it’s not going to be on our terms.”  It’s going to be on the earth’s terms, and it’s going to validate that we humans are not separate from or above or more important than nature. The current story that we are embedded in heralds consumerism, wealth and getting ahead as the road to a successful and happy life.  This story has a powerful pull – it has demonstrated the power to change the physical world beyond recognition in too many cases, and it has demonstrated the power to entice the collective of humanity to turn a blind eye to the cry of the earth.   We have poured ourselves into this current story with abandon and it can be hard to feel the new one that wants to emerge. Continue reading “The Need For Magic”

The New World of Winter

The New World of Winter

This winter started early with a foot of unexpected snow mid November, and then 13 days later temperatures in the 40s and 50s invited the ground to turn dry and brown again.  Then a few weeks into December, the temperature dropped below freezing, and it snowed just enough inches to cover the ground in bright white.  We got a few weeks of ice skating on the rink that my husband likes to clear on the lake, skied some loops around the field in shallow tracks, and our two year old took her first runs down the sledding hill through the wisps of grass that poked through the snow cover.  Then it got bitterly cold, and we woke up to wind chills of twenty below zero for a week straight.  And now, at the end of January, the temperature is 36 degrees, the sun is out and the snow is succumbing to the heat once again.  We made a snowman, and he’s shrinking as I type this.  I’m not sure he’ll make it a full week.  My skis are languishing by the back door, despondent in their respite from use.  The snowshoes are sitting by the door, waiting to be needed. doclist Continue reading “The New World of Winter”

Cultivating Gentleness

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It’s not just schools that often lack gentleness. Workplaces can rub us raw too, as can public transit, shopping malls, restaurants, and daycare. The levels of noise, advertising, and stressed-out people dealing with other stressed-out people can leave us feeling bombarded and drained.

Creating more spaces of refuge, like public parks, is one option. But another option is to integrate gentleness into all our spaces and daily interactions. It could be something as small as turning down the music in cafés. Or as radical as a mother making the commitment to care for herself with as much tenderness as she does her family.

[and at the end of the day]…

It is me saying to myself: “I’m so in awe of you, I must treat you as if I truly understood what noble means.” It is me saying to others: “I get it. We’re wounded and taking a thousand risks simply by showing up. And I see that. I honor you.”  ~Andréana E. Lefton

 

Ms. Lefton writes about gentleness and how essential it is to a healthy human life.  She acknowledges that sometimes creating the physical or circumstantial changes that will allow for a calm and gentle flow to our days just isn’t possible in the short term.  But she reminds us that we can invite that  gentle energy in by taking opportunities to look for ways to create space – space that gives gentleness room to seep into the fabric of our days and inform our choices.  And she reminds us that we can honor ourselves and our experiences by being vulnerable and accepting support – and that we can honor everyone we encounter by showing up, listening/seeing with compassion and offering encouragement over criticism. 

 

Gentleness forms the under-song of survival — the hidden face of evolution, wars, famine — and the partner of resilience. It is the loving touch that reminds us we are not alone, and there is hope. There is healing.  Gentleness exists between people. And it dwells within each of us.

 

How do you cultivate gentleness within yourself?  When encountering others?

 

Buried Joy

Buried Joy

“Be joyful because it is humanly possible.”  Wendell Berry has written a lot of words that eloquently illustrate basic truths, but I think these seven words are some of his most important for humans to hear and embody.  Everyone has the opportunity for joy, even if it’s fleeting or hard to recognize or stuck under melancholy. The joy that is stuck or buried is even perhaps the joy that persists when things are challenging – it’s the joy that refuses to let go even when our human experience is wrought with hardship and despair and searching.  It’s the joy that is still there even when we can’t see it, or when we let our focus go to the thing with the loudest voice – sometimes joy tends to be soft spoken.  This is the joy that makes us human, the joy that is the love at our center, the joy that reminds us that though our emotions are real, we don’t have to let them control our life experience.  We don’t have to let our life situation and how we feel about it dictate how we perceive what happens, or what doesn’t.  We can be joyful simply because it’s  possible.

Years ago I worked in a fitness facility that was set up to support the efforts of people affected by physical disability.  There were special adaptive machine settings to accommodate wheelchairs, straps to secure a weak grip onto a bar and a warm water pool for bodies that craved the way swimming allows for limitless movement.  The facility attracted all sorts of people – a lot of older adults recovering from stroke, children who were learning to live in a body that just wouldn’t cooperate in doing activities of daily living, and individuals who needed a place to exercise that saw them as whole instead of broken.

There is one woman who I will always remember.  She was in her mid 40s and came rolling into the fitness center every Thursday at about 2pm.  An accident 10 years prior left her with no use of her lower body, and limited use of her torso and arms.  We spent the hour she was there each week moving from one piece of equipment to the next, and I helped her get situated by swinging the seat out so she could roll into place and strapping her hands to the bar or pulley so she could manipulate it.  Every workout was the same – I don’t remember ever increasing the weight or seeing any progress in her strength or ability.  She just showed up every week, did her circuit and moved on to the rest of her day.

What makes me remember her is that she didn’t convey frustration or anger.  She never showed disappointment in the lack of noticeable physical progress.  She didn’t complain about the ice in the winter and how her wheel chair slipped on it, or about how long it took to get in and out of her van, or about having to move from the home she loved because she couldn’t get to the bathroom on the second floor anymore.  She spoke of her life before the accident not with longing and regret, but with gratitude for the experiences that she had when she could walk.  And she spoke of her current life in the same way.  Not with longing for her past, or with anger that she no longer had a body that would do what it once did, but instead with gratitude that she had a body that could carry her through life, and the new experiences and opportunities that occur because of the change in that body.

She took the joy that could have stayed buried under grief and hardship and used it to move through a really difficult transition.  She took what could have easily become an avenue into bitterness and turned instead onto a path paved with beauty and appreciation for what the world can be .  She didn’t let the accident and its outcome shout louder that the joy that was a part of her core essence.  She didn’t let her life situation and how she felt about it dictate how she responded to what happened, or to what didn’t.   She chose to be joyful because it was possible.

Listen

Look out the back door into the sunrise.

Listen.

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There is a faint, yet unwavering beat spreading horizontally over the landscape. It has a rhythm like the powwows of the Lakota people, of a drumming circle, of a collective chanting and funneling of energy into a medium that can be felt and heard by all. This pulse is coming from Gaia, from the core of the earth, from the Being that is represented in all life on the planet. It cannot be ignored. It can be pushed aside and is by many, but it is persistent. The authentic earth is speaking.

What do we hear? What are we going to do with this pulse that is reminding us of who we are? What are we going to be as the ancient rhythm settles into our veins and spreads outward through our choices?

Through our choices, by the actions we take and because of the way we walk on the earth, we are  part of the life that continues to unfold all around us. Nothing that is life – that has the capacity to love, that is the essence of something bigger than we can fully understand – can be contained by systems that are not peace centered and life giving. Though we have plenty of broken systems, we as a collective are an integral part of the unwavering beat – the pulse- and the energy that is propelling our world into something that we know is truth.  To something that is more beautiful than we can imagine on the good days.

This forward motion, this horizontal push into the newness of what has always been at the core, is not without challenge. Change is hard for humans, even when the change is full of light and promise. It can be easy to hold on to what we know, even when it doesn’t serve who we truly are. Even while we welcome change, we don’t know what our reality will look like in the days to come, and we have a hard time with the unknowing. We want something concrete; we want dates to look forward to. We want to plan, and we want to see changes and energy shifts manifest in ways that we can understand and see in our daily lives.

We will get these things, even when it feels like we are still waiting for a sign that Now we can truly live how we are meant to live.   Because while we question, while we still feel like we are waiting, while we strive to exist in a way that is authentic, the pulse is still there. It has always been there.   Many ears are still deaf to the realness of the beating, but it is getting louder with every intention to live as a part of the whole and to be as one with the heart of creation.

Look out the back door into the sunrise. You will see the pulse of the earth. You will feel the collective call to be a people of wholeness and of healing. You will remember that you are the true value, the energy and the answer.

Listen.

Remember.

Be part of the sunrise.

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The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.

–Alan Watts