Last spring I heard a woman named Cynthia Jurs speak. She said a lot of interesting and important things during her talk, but what stood out to me most was the way she spoke of “acting from the subtle” and how important it can be to stop and breathe in the midst of the chaos that seems to punctuate our world more than we want it to. She spoke of focusing on the space that is in between where we are and where we want to go. She said it’s that ‘in between’ space that allows new things to come into being. From that space we can learn to recognize our gifts, and once we’ve recognized them, we can offer those gifts out into our communities, our workplaces, and our families. She reminded us that it is from our gifts – those gifts that are unique to our own being — that we can affect our life situation in the deepest way and contribute to the healing of the world. She reminded us that due to the nature of “in between” space, we all have a different version of what’s true for us, but that we can still support each other despite being on differing paths. Continue reading “The Space Between”
I watched a robin explore one of our crab apple trees yesterday afternoon. He hopped from bare branch to bare branch, stopping now and then to poke at old, dried-up crabapples with his beak. At one point he seemed to look right at me, as if he were making sure I noticed his presence. I wasn’t sure how to respond.
Robins usually don’t come back to this area of Minnesota until at least the end of March, though last year we saw one on February 18th, the same day the seasonal ‘spring melt’ stream ran — unseasonably early. Yesterday was February 16th, so it seems this trend of early melting will continue for another season. The snow is almost gone after a few days of 40 degrees, and today it’s 50. Tomorrow it is projected to be 55, and Sunday, 57. Winter as I remember it just doesn’t seem to happen anymore, and this early warmth doesn’t feel normal.
When you work in healthcare, whether it’s in a fitness center, in customer service, in management, in coaching, as a physician, a nurse or administrative assistant, you are reminded, on a regular basis, that life is hard for people. People are stressed out, people are managing chronic conditions, people have financial issues, people are grieving, people are angry, people are unsure. People are also happy, satisfied, healthy, and thriving, but folks tend to their struggles before they share their joys. Interacting with humanity, especially when it comes to something as intimate as one’s health and wellbeing, is messy and unpredictable no matter how hard we try to make it into a program or round out the edges or meet our outcomes goals. So often we have the urge to swoop in to offer a solution, to look at the numbers and provide a suggestion, or to give advice based on what we see…
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The simple things are also the most extraordinary things, and only the wise can see them. ~Paulo Coelho
*Jane started coaching with me in 2010 or so. She came into our coaching relationship as a former heart disease patient, just looking to keep up the healthy habits that she’d put into practice after a cardiac surgery ten years prior. With a clean bill of health and the okay from her cardiologist to simply visit him annually for a regular check-up, her goals stemmed from the desire to support her husband in eating healthier as he struggled with some of his own health issues. She embraced gardening, got really creative with whipping up interesting dishes from quinoa and millet, and loved to share her new finds with me in the realm of healthy eating. She struggled with her goal to get to the gym even though she always felt better after going, and…
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Part of my day job is calling people to schedule coaching appointments. Usually people are polite and respectful, and even sometimes downright kind hearted and pleasant to talk to. Which is good news, since I’m calling them to put them on my own coaching calendar, so we’ll be talking again. It’s helpful to start the relationship off on a positive note.
But today I called a gentleman who wasn’t any of those things. Quite the opposite, really, he was quite mean and disrespectful. I asked if he wanted to set up a call, and he responded with sentences that tended to start with “you people” and “do you even realize” and so on, punctuated by sarcastic chuckling. In short, he made it personal and he wanted me to acknowledge that I was in the wrong. I was the enemy, and he was going to let me know it. Usually I am good at being able to internalize the fact that everyone is dealing with a plethora of issues that I do not know about and that are quite probably very challenging, resulting in unfriendly behavior; and hey, maybe this man was just having a tough day, or week, or year. His energy is absolutely the product of our broken culture, and at the end of the day, he needs love, too. But today when he was essentially scolding me for not being able to meet his expectations, all I could hear was “you aren’t good enough” and “this is why it’s doing me a disservice.” I felt like the bad child who doesn’t measure up, and I found myself apologizing and trying to hold back tears. Which is really interesting, as 1. I did nothing “wrong” and 2. I was quite kind, professional and offered what I had to give. He just didn’t find it acceptable. When on the call, I knew intellectually that his issues and his anger were not about me at all, but in the moment his energy triggered a response that I couldn’t control. I had to hang up the phone. Continue reading “The Other: Crumbs of Despair”
The first person I called after four weeks of training to be a corporate health coach was a gentleman named *Charlie. The appointment was at 7pm on a Tuesday in April, and I had literally all day to prepare and worry about how it would go. When the witching hour finally rolled around, I dialed the phone, had my paper at the ready to take notes and half hoped that he wouldn’t answer. He did answer, and at the end of the conversation, he had a goal to play basketball once a week and eat one less serving of pasta when spaghetti was on the table for dinner. (No easy feat when one is Italian and spaghetti rules the meal plan.) And I knew that he had a six year old daughter going through treatment for leukemia and that he felt powerless in the face of something so important that was outside of his control. In twenty minutes I learned what made this person who I’d probably never meet get up in the morning and what drove him to take care of himself. I learned about some of his challenges, and I learned of his struggles to stay on track. I asked him what his vision of a healthy life was, and he told me it was to be his best self so he could give his daughter the dad she deserved. Most of his story I’ll never know, and he didn’t have to tell me the parts that he did. But he chose to share, and I chose to listen, and now our stories will forever be intertwined. Continue reading “Weaving With Invisible Thread”
In wellness and life coaching, a fair amount of time is spent thinking and talking about “mindfulness,” or a state of active, open attention on the present, which includes observing thoughts and feelings from a distance without passing judgment. In our first world, corporate-driven culture, it’s something that is perhaps easy to talk and think about and harder to put into practice – after all, who has time to be mindful on a regular basis in the midst of to do lists, meetings, and the myriad of other items that punctuate our work days? Isn’t multitasking the only way to get everything done on time? We need to make a profit! Meet the bottom line! Make that person happy! And that one! And it all has to be efficient and productive! Plus, if we don’t judge what’s going on during the day, how will we convey what we think is right?
Well, we might argue that when we practice being present and mindful in the moments as they pass, we do our jobs better and leave our work feeling grounded, instead of frazzled. We can have confidence that we didn’t miss something important due to trying to do everything at once, even if we didn’t get to the entire list. We can put our energy into the thing that’s right in front of us, and we can let things go when letting them go is going to serve best. We can stand witness to the events of the day that we can’t control, and we can take comfort in the fact that we did our very best to impact the world around us in a positive way. Even if we have to let a few dollars go in the process.
I few months ago I sent a message to a client-one who’s been active and engaged in her process, and thus ready to put some energy into thinking about the questions posed to her about being more mindful. This was her response when I inquired about how her mindfulness practice was coming along:
Mindfulness has put me in better touch with my feelings. It’s making me more aware of my surroundings, especially regarding the senses (smell, touch, sound, etc.). I identify many more blessings and have taken the time to appreciate them. I enjoy journaling my observances. The journal was a great suggestion you gave me.
I am realizing that multi-tasking is not the way to go in most instances. I feel less stressed when I focus on one task at a time. When I reflect on what I completed, I feel I am accomplishing more each day. It feels great to pause and acknowledge what I’ve done instead of just moving on to the next thing for a continuous chain of to-dos’s which leaves me feeling depleted.
Mindfulness is definitely a new habit that I need more practice at in order to break through the old ways of thinking and doing things. It’s been like a new aerobics class or yoga position that is challenging to keep up with or to do at all until I gain conditioning, but it feels great to learn a new way that is so beneficial for me mentally and emotionally.
So as you go about your work days in the months to come, remember to allow yourself to stay present in what’s happening right now. Because after all, right now is the only moment that we can ever truly grasp.