Category Archives: Personal Growth

The Circus in my Head

A few years ago, I was asking each of my yoga students how they were feeling before I started class. Most people told me something about their body: “my neck is stiff”, “my hips are tight”, “I hurt my knee but I don’t know how (or I know exactly how)”!

This is quite useful, because as a teacher it helped me decide which movements or poses to incorporate, which modifications to offer and to whom, etc.

But I’ll never forget the first time a woman decked out in colorful yoga leggings answered the question in a different way: “I have a circus in my head,” she said in her fabulous Italian accent. So true, my friend, so true.

To me, the goal of yoga isn’t really standing on your head or achieving ultimate pretzel state. Although it’s nice, it’s not even getting stronger or increasing flexibility or balance. The ultimate goal of yoga is to take all the activities my mind is capable of: perceiving, imagining, remembering, etc., directing this mind to a place of my CHOOSING, and holding my attention there as long as I want.

The circus often has other ideas about where attention should be placed.

I recently relocated back to the Boston area from Austin. Talk about chaos, and the need to multi-task. Three days prior to this writing, I was playing “mover delivery bingo”, crossing 188 numbers (in random order) off a sheet while 3 different guys brought things into my apartment, calling out numbers. All while trying to instruct them on which room to put things in, and where. Needless to say, this was all my mind was being instructed to do.

I’ve only been gone 3 years, and some things have changed. I can *sort of* drive on autopilot, but when I do, I often realize that no, this wasn’t the best way to go. I have to be a little more active in my attention when I want to get from point A to point B.

In the new Market Basket the other day, I had a pretty surreal experience. I was unfamiliar with the store — and quite frankly the layout is pretty hokey — but as I was walking through I would “tune in” to a single thing. For example, I was first captured by the woman hollering into her cell phone: “I don’t understand how they found out! They must have overheard me talking or something!!” The irony of that made me smile. An aisle later: listening to the cadence of some produce workers speaking Spanish.

It was as if I had a laser beam of attention that I focused on one particular situation, and everything else got a little hazy. I was feeling a little weird about it until a friend reminded me of what it really was: mindful attention. We’re so not used to it!

Even though I’m no longer in the corporate world, I consider myself a go-go-go kind of person. I’ll always be busy. So I know that sometimes health recommendations are just too.freaking.hard. I don’t sit in meditation — in fact health issues prevent me from being physically able to. My mindfulness, my meditation, my practices have had to be more IN the world than removed from it. And that’s taught me a lot.

In fact, all these upheavals in my life helped me rediscover a practical, easy-to-remember technique I learned years ago in a different context. When practicing it, I’ve greatly increased my ability to be present, especially when the circus wants to play. What’s even better is that each step in the 5-step technique is also independently do-able and useful in and of itself.

I want to share this with more people; while it’s not new, it’s likely a different combination and a new “take” on something that may just change your life.

So my hope is that, regardless of where you are located (and where your mind is) right now, I hope you’ll join me Wednesday evenings starting June 14. Learn more here.

Live Your Life, Love Your Food

There was a time in my life where I was obsessed with food, and like all obsessions, this one took some time to unravel.

When I was being good, I was following someone else’s plan about how and what I should eat. Certain foods were off-limits, though if I’m honest with myself, I wasn’t entirely sure why. I expended a lot of time and energy to follow this plan.

My life looked something like this:

I’d use my Sundays to pre-select, shop, and prep my meals and snacks for at least the next 3-5 days. In addition, I’d diligently enter all the recipes into MyFitnessPal so they’d be ready for me to track, and plan my exercise schedule for the week (because of course that affected my allotted calories). I actually grew to enjoy these Sundays, throwing on some music and cooking up a storm.

But I can’t say I really did much else those days.

Weekdays were challenging, especially as the days turned into evenings, and Mondays into Fridays.

I loved Monday, because every week was the opportunity for a new start. I’d feel all motivated and ready from my Sunday “food chore” day!

And breakfasts were always easy for me. I was home–maybe I’d done a yoga practice or some exercise in the morning; so I felt content and confident for the day. (If I’d slept well….)

By lunchtimes I’d likely have been in 2-3 meetings, few of which I was truly interested in, some of them high-stress or contentious for whatever reason. Lunch looked like sifting through emails that had been piling up OR running off to another meeting. (Noon was often the only time people on a project team were “free”, because of all the other meetings they were in!) Team members scampered through the cafeteria, dashed into the conference room, and then scarfed down their food to get on with it. Initially I did the same with the healthy food I brought.

By 3 or 4 pm, I’d likely have some free time in my office to eat my snack. So I’d pull one of those Fiber One bars out of the box in my desk drawer–you know, that healthy bar with all the chocolate pieces in it!–and devour it while trying to catch up on things that had happened while I’d been in more meetings. But I wasn’t satisfied, so I’d eat another. Pretty soon the box I’d brought for the week would be empty.

Sometimes this would happen early in the week. Other times I’d have a streak of good days, and the cycle wouldn’t start until later. But it was always the same once I’d gone on a binge…:

I’d realize and track what I’d done, to see how badly I’d gone over my calorie allotment for the day. “Well shit,” I’d think. “Today’s a bust. Screw it then.”

More tight deadlines, more difficult meetings, more challenging conversations, and then traffic on the way home.

Then I’d not necessarily eat what I’d prepared for dinner. And if I did, I’d eat something else too. And something else after that.

I needed to unwind from the day!

One of my favorites was BudiBars. At one point, I’d buy a case–as in, for the month–and store the box in my garage so that every time I ate one, I’d have to run up and down the stairs. Unfortunately, this didn’t prevent me from eating the whole box within a couple days. They ARE healthy, right?

Sunday I’d repeat the process. Monday I’d reset. Can you guess what happened? Yup. I kept gaining (rather than maintaining or losing) weight. I knew this, because I’d weigh myself every morning: buck naked, at the exact same time (just to be sure).

I was frustrated because I was putting in SO much effort. I was trying so hard not to eat certain things. Internally, I’d tell myself I was “fat and disgusting” over and over again, thinking it might finally sink in and I’d stop eating things I didn’t want to eat. On more positive days, I might tell myself I could overcome this, that I could be strong.

And it started to feel like there was some internal demon who made me eat way too much no matter how hard I resisted!

Can you feel this? It really sucked.

This cycle caused me to study Eating Psychology, and become a coach. And now I know there are SEVERAL reasons why all this didn’t work for me…and why it actually worked AGAINST me.

Boy do I wish I had known these reasons BEFORE!!  So much of my life could have been different. So much time saved, so much energy put to other uses. I don’t regret this phase of my life because it taught me a ton, but you know, it would have been nice to have been able to focus on other things: tending to relationships, contributing to the world, that sort of thing!

Among the pile of reasons this way of living wasn’t working was that I was not receiving any PLEASURE from my food. Apart from the prep-time, I was barely looking at it, and I certainly wasn’t tasting it.

Do you get pleasure from your food? Does it look amazing? Does it taste even more amazing? 

  • If not, you’re not taking full advantage of your calorie-burning and metabolic potential — and I’d love for you to get some inspiration!
  • If you are, I’d love for you to help me show others how healthy food can be mouth-wateringly pleasurable.

Read more about and sign up for my FREE Healthy Pleasures Photo Challenge (starts June 1)!

How to fall out of the self-improvement trap

I love words that seem to sing what they’re about. I often find these words in other languages, including Sanskrit, the language of yoga. One of my favorite Sanskrit words is svādhyāya. Svādhyāya is translated into “self-study”, or “self-inquiry”.

Perhaps I like this word because I ROCK at self-improvement.

One of my former company’s core values was “continuous self-improvement” and boy, did I get it. I eagerly attended training and participated in programs, with a pure intention to hear people’s ideas about how I could improve myself. I was told—especially at performance review time—where I wasn’t up to snuff, where I could grow (hopefully as kindly as possible). As a manager, I delivered this feedback (hopefully as kindly as possible) too.

It shouldn’t be surprising that I’ve been a self-help book fanatic.

That’s not to say that I took what I read lock, stock, and barrel: certain ideas made me cringe, or didn’t seem to apply to me. I chose a few things that resonated with me, and let the rest go. This, I believed, was a healthy way to create my own system of self-improvement: one that fit my particular goals, strengths and weaknesses, and limitations like, say, the number of hours in the day I had left to do this work!

I’ve also seen a few therapists, and have even participated in a therapy group about Self.

I joined the group because I connected with the therapist’s initial presentation: I felt like he accurately described some of my struggles. I learned a lot from others in the group too; by the time I left, I had a well-organized, tab-delimited and labeled blue binder filled with tools and techniques to use in various challenging mental and emotional circumstances.

If there was a technique I could use to improve myself, it was at my fingertips.

If something I tried helped me, I’d continue to use it (sometimes after an ample trial period, but not always). If I’m honest, I’d often get overwhelmed with all the possibilities–which would leave me scrapping it all, because choosing added more stress and I had other shit to get done. Even if you take away ONE thing per book, training, or appointment, if you’re addicted to such things like I was, you’ll quickly develop quite a repertoire.

Years later, I put some of these tools and techniques to work helping others.

I left my corporate job and became a Mind-body Wellness Consultant. I started using the tools I’d amassed for myself to help my clients with many conditions. The conditions I most I love working with are ones I’d had some personal experience with, such as: stress, poor sleep, anxiety, depression, chronic pain, and body image. I also found that like me, many of my clients have access to too many tools, or too many similar tools, which either don’t work for them, or which they fail to use. Then I noticed something else that was true both me and my clients:

Our best-intentioned health pursuits can actually be unhealthy.

If someone has lots of tools they like, the inclination I’ve seen is to try and throw all of them at “the problem.” Thus, people become more stressed out because of all the health-related activities they have to do every day.

  • “I have to get myself through rush hour to squeak into my yoga class with a minute to spare!”
  • “I need to find time to make these recipes for the week, so I can eat healthy!”
  • “I should fit in X days of cardio, X days of strength-training, and I have to meditate for 30 minutes too.”
  • “I’m tracking every ounce of food I ingest, regardless of where I am.”

The truth is, I used to be that person driving like a madwoman to get to the 6:30 pm power yoga class, because I left work later than I wanted to and traffic sucked. Nothing like rushing around, cursing other drivers and then…. “OMMMMMMM…!”

It just doesn’t happen like this, folks.

In fact this is the very kind of behavior that increases stress, anxiety, insomnia and tension in all of the hours that you’re not “doing” your health & wellness routine (and let’s face it, that’s a lot of time). And if you haven’t noticed by now, health-related “self-improvement” techniques like these don’t tend to become sustainable routines, either!

That’s because even though the mind thinks it is, the body knows that this kind of behavior isn’t healthy. No matter how smart you are, your body is smarter than your mind.

This is also the reason you can skip breakfast, eat a great salad for lunch, followed by a healthy dinner, and then binge your whole pantry empty in the evening. Your body knows deep down that it wanted that breakfast, and that the tasteless salad you multi-tasked while working at your desk at 2 pm isn’t really nourishing you because truthfully, you find salad 90% disgusting (the 10% dressing of course, is another matter!). You didn’t take any breaks through your day. Heck, you barely took full breath, and you didn’t notice that the posture you assumed at your desk was garbage; so now add a chiropractor to your list of “to do’s” to help your aching back.

As I saw more clients and studied myself more, I realized I’d made a crucial error:

Svādhyāya and “self-study” does NOT mean automatically leaping on the “self-improvement” train.

Of course you have to recognize areas for improvement before you can make any changes. But I certainly got waylaid by our culture’s ideas about GETTING.BETTER.FASTER. It’s no wonder, since these ideas are reinforced not only in workplaces but also in typical routes to improve health. These were two environments I lived and breathed, and dare I say, thrived in. Living in the question isn’t a place of comfort; not like DOING something is.

Svādhyāya isn’t about adding anything, per se. It’s about NOTICING what’s happening in your mind-body system, so that you can discover who you are. How you get triggered. How you behave when under stress. What you do, what you don’t do. How you think. How you feel. Only when you spend some time here, in this realm of curiosity, can you learn to start making timely decisions that are more aligned with your best interest. It’s mindfulness of the Self.

Although I had been exposed in my initial yoga teacher training, I’d forgotten the most important component of true svādhyāya, which is CURIOSITY. Curiosity is no easy task. It’s what remains when we temporarily let go of that addiction called JUDGMENT. That’s where the real challenge is. But when we can put judgement aside, when we can say things like “huh, I didn’t realize that!”, or “isn’t that interesting?” about what comes up in our thoughts, about how we feel, or how we behave, it can be quite educational.

Svādhyāya itself IS the best technique for living. No fixing required.

Staying AWARE; the eye of the storm

I must say I was pretty surprised not to find “moving” on the list of the 10 most stressful life events. And when you factor in a cross-country move with a significant other and an animal, I’d expect it to at least be in there!

When I moved to Austin at the end of 2013, I was lucky. I was by myself, felt I had nothing to lose, and had someone there ready to accept me (and my stuff) with open arms and empty drawers. Although I loved the weather, my teaching gigs, my students and my clients, the energy and atmosphere of the South just doesn’t work for me, and it’s almost immediately noticeable when I’m back in Boston. So last week, I flew home with 2 big and 2 small suitcases, received by a gracious friend and her equally gracious beau, and hit the ground running on the apartment-hunt front. I can feel the almost 24-like timer in the corner of my screen, counting down the days I have to find something that’s do-able for my family for a year.

I’d love to say that being a Mind-body Wellness Consultant means I’ve taken GREAT care of myself. But honestly, it’s been quite hard.

I was up way too late the night of arrival, busy catching up, socializing, and then wound so tight sleep eluded me. The following 2-3 days were a frantic pile of running around–renting a car until mine arrived, looking at places I’d already lined up, texting / emailing / calling multiple people trying to show me places, etc. I ran around from mid-morning to early evening, and then last night had an agonizing decision to make over two “doable” but “not quite right” places I finally turned down, when 3 tosses of the coin came up tails and that was clearly the answer from the Universe. Talk about stress.

But I will recognize and even give myself some “kudos” (wow, that word hasn’t come up in a few years ;-)! Even as I was driving around–which BTW is SO SO much easier here than in Austin!–I became AWARE that I wasn’t hydrated; that I was hungry; that I was tired. When I NOTICED these things, I ACTED to make better choices in the next moments. I stopped at Whole Foods for a lunch break. I got a quinoa salad thing (at Starbucks of all places!) in the morning and put it in my lunch sack for later…I bought bottles of water and healthy GF nutrition bars. I even took my pile of supplements with me in a little plastic baggie–and I haven’t yet missed a dose. I also haven’t missed a day of my morning yoga practice, because I KNOW how much I need it.

This morning was more of the same, but after I turned in the rental car, I’m in, no where to go and nothing to do. In some ways, having this self-care day is exactly what I needed. I’m ensconced in tea and “Tuesdays with Morrie” (which I started on the plane and just finished). I had my first “meal” this morning around 11 o’clock: rotisserie chicken, basmati rice, and green beans, all smothered in olive oil. Ah…so soothing. When realtors text me, “I’m sorry, I can’t see anything until tomorrow.” And that’s true. For today, I’m hanging out in the eye of the storm. Trying to find some bit of stability, peace, and comfort with everything whirling around me.

What have you done to find some peace and stillness when everything around you is in upheaval? Do you NOTICE and CHANGE your behavior before it’s too late and you’re completely spent? I’d love to hear YOUR thoughts and advice!

What would it feel like if we stopped beating ourselves up?

I recently had an interesting conversation with a friend and coaching peer. She and I basically swapped stories of how we “screwed up” something. For her, it was a typo in a survey she sent out; for me, it was the wrong date of a new program I’m offering in June.

What I thoroughly enjoyed about this conversation was that we were both very light-hearted about it. “Oops!” and “oh well, stuff happens” was pretty much the attitude we collectively embraced.

Now that’s not to say that we weren’t taking responsibility for what we’d done (or hadn’t done). In fact for me, I knew it was pretty ironic that I messed up the date for a MINDFULNESS class! I’d quadruple checked things, as did she. But sometimes you can look at your own work for hours without seeing mistakes, and at some point, that work simply needs to be released into the world.

I used to live by the idea that if I wasn’t perfect, I wasn’t a good person. A mistake like that would have had me beating myself up for hours–if not days–afterwards. It would have me wondering “how could that possibly happen?” It would have me worried about my “reputation”, such as it was.

How often do we judge ourselves for being human? For making mistakes that have to happen once in awhile, because you know, no one’s perfect?

I advise both myself and others this way:

If you make a mistake, you have the mistake to deal with.

Now if you add a layer of judgment on top of that (e.g. “I’m so stupid what’s wrong with me?”)

And then any / all the subsequent thoughts that grow from a negative thought like the previous one,

You’ve just piled yet more s**t on top of yourself that you’ll have to dig out of, eventually. Its like building a layer cake–but much less tasty. And the more you do it, the stronger the tendency becomes!

So don’t pile it on. Don’t do it. Just don’t!

Step carefully away from the judgment. Own the mistake, fix it if you can, recognize any contributing factors that might help with “next time”, and then move on.

Remember that you’re so much more than your little faux pas!

Modeling the Way for Your Employees, Bosses, & Clients

A few years back I worked for a high-tech company, and one of the very common phrases you’d hear is “model the way”. This meant more than “lead by example”; it meant that people who worked there–at all levels of the organization–should exemplify the core values (i.e. the “way”) in their words and deeds. First let me state that this primarily is a necessary (and good) thing.

And it works out great…as long as one is internally aligned with those values–or more importantly, how they’re being carried out in the fabric of the company’s culture.

When one is not (or no longer) aligned, things like this may happen:

    1. The person tries their hardest to fit into the expected model; others sense this person’s lack of authenticity and therefore, don’t get the benefit of authentic modeling; the person acting in-authentically may begin to suffer physically, mentally, and emotionally.
    2. The person remains authentic by flat-out dismissing the expectation of modeling and the model itself; others are confused about what is expected of them because they see different things; the person being true to themselves may feel frustrated, ostracized, and criticized, which may again lead to suffering in various forms.

I’m sure there are other possible permutations, but you get the idea. It’s hardly a win-win situation.

If one is not in alignment with the actual culture of their company (vs. its stated values), it’s likely they’ll suffer to some extent. Oftentimes such mis-alignments initially seem manageable, until one day the suffering (and health status) of the individual clearly shows they’re not.

In companies small to large, it’s ideal when the corporate values that help meet business goals are integrated into our mind-body system and are authentically reflected out to our employees, bosses, and/or clients.

In fact, it’s this very integration and reflection that makes one professionally successful.

And, I’ll argue that it should never come at the expense of our health!

A Tried-and-True Human Value System

Sometimes, when we start to feel misaligned with how our workplace’s core values are reflected in the corporate culture, it is because they are in conflict with what I’ll call “human core values”.

A nice way to stay connected to our human core values is to use something that may initially sound a bit “woo”: the Chakra system.

Many people believe in a subtle system of energy that flows throughout our system in two primary “roads”, called nadis. (There are actually three major nadis, but for now we’ll stay with these two.)  One begins at the base of the spine on the left side, and spirals up the torso, weaving right and left, toward the left nostril and eye. The other begins on the right, and spirals up to the right nostril and eye. The points at which these nadis cross are called Chakras, and there are seven. To stay with the road analogy, think of Chakras as rotaries or roundabouts.

Chakras are assigned different colors and symbols, and each serves the neighborhood it’s located in: in other words, each is responsible for particular physical, mental, and emotional aspects of our well-being.

A “balanced” mind-body system means that energy is moving freely up and down through all seven Chakras.

If there’s a blockage in the energy, it’s like traffic that gets stuck in the circle; issues related to that chakra may manifest. In our road systems, we know that if there are two rotaries close by, traffic stuck in may cause back ups in the other. As such, we often will have multi-chakra issues.

Whether you believe in the existence of chakras or not, the chakra model is an interesting model for determining how aligned you are in body, mind, and spirit with the culture of your workplace.

And once you have some knowledge about where the mis-alignments are, you are better equipped to change yourself, your position, or influence your company’s culture to align better with people.

Because ultimately, good companies know that it’s their PEOPLE who are the most important asset!

Want to know how closely your work life / culture aligns with your human core values, in the context of the chakra model?

Download the worksheet to help you assess & identify specific areas where you might get stuck.

“Dig One Well”

I’ve been studying the Yoga Sūtras with a mentor / teacher for 46 weeks now. Along the way I have learned a lot about what I’ll call “advice for living” that’s packed into each neatly stated line. There have been some weeks where I was SO ready to move on; there have been other weeks where I couldn’t seem to get enough about what Patañjali was communicating, because I could relate so much.

What’s a Sūtra?

In case you’re not familiar with Patañjali and the Yoga Sūtras: essentially the Sūtras are the documented curriculum of yoga practice. (“Yoga” here meaning a system for living, not just the physical practice we in the West tend to obsess over. In fact, this yoga is much more about the mind than anything else!)

Before the Sūtras, yoga was passed along from teacher to student orally. Sūtra means thread, which is appropriate–each line in the Yoga Sūtras has multiple meanings and levels of depth that (I believe) can only really be grasped from that connection with a trained teacher. If you pick up different translations of the Sūtras, and put them side-by-side (as I’ve seen many people do), it is potentially pretty confusing. So what we’re doing in my class is studying “one way”–or one interpretation. The idea being that after we have an understanding like this, then we can look at others because we’ll have a consistent context on which to base the additional insights.

A Sūtra That Hits Home

Today I’d like to share a bit about a Sūtra that has really spoken to me. It’s Chapter 1 Sūtra 32:


Here are some translations:

  • “If one can select an appropriate means to steady the mind and practice this, whatever the provocations, the interruptions cannot take root.” (T.K.V. Desikachar)
  • “To avoid them, [we must] commit to the practice of a single principle.” (Frans Moors)
  • “For that purpose of counteracting them practice one principle.” (Paul Harvey)
  • “The practice of concentration on a single subject [or the use of one technique] is the best way to prevent the obstacles and their accompaniments.” (Sri Swami Satchidananda)

Sūtra 1.32 refers to the prior Sūtra, in which life’s inevitable difficulties may become obstacles (that’s the “them” part in the definitions above). I’ll digress a little here: to know whether a difficulty has become an obstacle (in other words, that one is “stuck”), we would observe these symptoms:

  • “mental discomfort
  • negative thinking
  • the inability to be at ease in different body postures, and
  • difficulty in controlling one’s breath” (T.K.V. Desikachar)

I don’t know about you, but yeah, I’ve experienced those!

The way my teacher explains Sūtra 1.32 is to “dig one well”. In other words, focus on one thing. In this context it’s about a yoga practice, but it also has a wider implication for “doing life”.

How this shows up in my life

Prioritizing (Even Positive) “To Do’s”

Many people come to me wanting to “fix” everything that’s wrong about their health or their habits at once. What I see happen in these cases is that the person becomes quite overwhelmed. I fondly recall a client who was feeling stressed out about all the things she had to do in a day. She was very determined to be a healthier, brighter being. We listed out the ~15 things that she had on her daily “to do” list. (Please note that like many of us, she had a full time job that required at least 8 hours of her daily time, excluding a commute each way in Austin traffic!) No wonder she was overwhelmed. Focusing on one thing from her initial list immediately made things much lighter and easier.

Dealing with Chronic Pain

As some of you know, starting in December 2014 I started having pain in my sacrum and right hip. It was relentless, and it would change from day to day. As you might expect, I went on a quest to find out what was wrong with me. In other words, I was eager to get a diagnosis that I might then be able to work with to address the cause of the problem. My mentor at the time observed that I was doing all sorts of things, and for sure, I did many of them at once to try and alleviate the (now) chronic pain that seemed to be affecting every area of my life. It seemed reasonable, and I went almost 2 whole years before that “diagnosis” came. The diagnosis made it easier to focus on treatments for sure, but I wonder now: what if I were to have listened to her? What would have happened if, instead of running around to all sorts of Western doctors and Eastern healers, I had stuck with one practice? I would have saved lots of time and money and energy for sure…and maybe had more peace of mind while dealing with the pain. Would I still have narrowed down what the cause was? I’m still up in the air on this. 🙂

Growing a Successful Business

I’m currently enjoying a read of The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It. At the same time, I’ve started working with a business coach to redefine (or rather, to define!) my business model. The business coach talks a lot about “being in alignment”, and what this (and the book) has highlighted for me is that I’ve moved from a corporate job in technology to entrepreneurship in health & wellness (I can finally say that I am in fact, an entrepreneur!). But–I have not clearly defined my business model, and thus I cannot accurately determine whether an opportunity, option, or idea that presents itself is in my (and my business’) best interest / in alignment. As a result, I’m teaching public classes at 3 gym locations, a studio, doing privates, giving workshops / talks (both in multiple locations), offering online programs, seeing clients in my own practice for coaching and Reiki and yoga, trying to get a corporate health gig, etc. As a result my days are very scattered, I’m driving all over the place, and I’m putting energy into all sorts of “random” things! I have not “dug one well” in my business; I’m tired and am not feeling like I’m living up to my full potential.

A related business example is the pretty famous “ONE Thing“. They ask, “what ONE thing (could I do that) would make all other things (on my list) unnecessary?”. Sounds like one well to me!

Final Thoughts

At least since I’ve been free to set my own schedule, I’ve not done especially well with focus. And I’m seeing how this particular Sūtra is so relevant to various aspects of my life. I feel as though I’m in a period of transition: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I believe wholeheartedly that my new mantra of “dig one well” will help me create a life of more ease and joy!

Where in your life do you need to “dig one well?”

How My Own 7-day Self-Care Challenge Helped Me Redefine Self-Care

If you read my last post, you know that the week of Valentine’s Day I facilitated a 7-day Self-Care Challenge on Facebook.  Each day, participants were challenged to do a particular self-care activity, or one of their choosing that aligned with the day’s theme.  We finished on Saturday, February 18th.

As a teacher / guide and eternal student, I straddle two worlds: the world where sometimes clients think I do everything perfectly, and the world of reality–which is one where I struggle with some of the same things my clients do.  So I decided that I would not just be a facilitator: I’d also be a participant!

Here’s just one thing I learned from my participation in the supportive group we had this year:

The best self-care is not just small…

I often tell clients that their self-care activity can be very small so that it’s practical, do-able, and can fit into a potentially busy day. And since I’m planner by practice, I had plans for what I thought was a small self-care activity on the day we connected with nature.

I planned to take a brief walk at a park on the way home from teaching one of my afternoon classes. But I was so hungry that I went straight home instead.

After lunch–while I was posting an article about plants–I ended up really looking at the aloe plant a dear friend gave me for Christmas. I observed how it has changed and grown in the few months I’ve had it. And because it’s on my desk within eye view, I realized it’s available to me to look at as a break from my computer screen every day.

Creative self-care requires mindfulness!

Because I was thinking about the day’s challenge all day, reading and commenting on participants’ creative posts, I became more mindful of all the little ways I could connect with nature throughout my day. Here was one of my favorite posts from someone who lives in a part of the country where going for a walk in February isn’t quite practical:

“It is a beautiful day, but the wind is brutal. I was going to go for a walk, but I’ll be honest… I didn’t make it far. I’m now back home watching the squirrels chase each other around the trees, which is actually really relaxing.” (Renee M., MN, also photo)

Later, I planned to spend some time gazing at the moon in meditation after my evening class. But alas, the moon wasn’t visible through the clouds in my planned moon-gazing spot. Arrgh, both my plans had been foiled! However, just as I pulled into my driveway, I was taken aback by a very bright Venus through some parting clouds; I paused to take it in. To be curious about what I was seeing To notice how it  made me feel. However brief, this experience turned out to be an extremely peaceful and expansive moment at the end of my very busy day.

So thank you participants, and to nature, for not cooperating with my plans! You’ve taught me to redefine self-care as:

a small, spontaneous moment of self-attention that arises from mindfulness and creates a positive feeling within oneself.

What do you think of this definition?

Future Self-Care Challenges

I hope to run this self-care challenge again next year–as much for me to practice and learn as for my clients! Here are what some folks said about participating:

  • Thank you so much for a great week! I have enjoyed the sharing and exchanging of information.
  • I did it all! I enjoyed the experience and I learned a lot, thank you!
  • Thank you so much for the week of wonders.
  • I did it all…with varying degrees of success. Thanks for all the great resources!
  • I wanted to do it all but got sideswiped by illness in the middle. But I’ve learned some great things, and will keep trying to incorporate them into my days.
  • I was able to do 7 out of 7!!!! Thank you so much for hosting The Self-Care Challenge. It was super fun sharing my results as well as reading everyone else’s!!
  • It was a good challenge. I needed those reminders. Good to remember it’s a practice!
  • “…it does feel good to focus on myself.
  • “Best wishes to everyone who participated in this challenge. And thank you, especially, Kali, for guiding us through the challenge.”
  • “When I first read today’s challenge I thought “Now how am I going to fit that in…” as today was a very full day. But as the day went by and I read all of my Self-Care friends’ post I became inspired!” (Photo courtesy Denisse M.)
  • “Pooh, I didn’t get yesterday’s challenge done. Busyness happened and I forgot to take care of myself that way. Oh, well. Today is a new day!”
  • “Nope, didn’t empty my water bottle like I should have. Why is it so hard to remember, I don’t forget to eat!”
  • “I wish I invited more people to this challenge. You have to do this again so others can benefit!!!!!”

Please like A Journey Into Health on Facebook or subscribe to my newsletter (below) to stay informed about the next challenge!

A Challenge for You: the Meaning of Valentine’s Day

On January 28, 2017 I conducted what was admittedly a very informal survey on my Facebook page. I asked my friends to tell me which answer most closely aligned with their views about Valentine’s Day. 33 people responded(1), and here’s the breakdown of what they said(2)(3).

You may be wondering why I asked this question in the first place.

In essence, Valentine’s Day is a day (sometimes a month!) dedicated to love. Since the middle ages, this day has been about expressing romantic love. And like many holidays, over the years it has become severely commercialized. My assumption was that since I’ve personally experienced each of these potential answers at some point in my life (as well as some of the depression and low self-esteem angst that some respondents talked about when answering “E”), others had too. But I also wanted to see whether we’d collectively redefined and updated the holiday for current times.

What did I want to see?

Given the business I’m in, I honestly wanted to see more people saying “D – Self Love Day” (although I did not expect it). Although there’s some controversy over the wording of the “love yourself first” adage, one thing I see repeatedly when I coach clients is a pretty clear lack of self-love, and in talking with them I also see how this changes their relationship with others. They often don’t ask for what they need. They don’t set effective boundaries. They don’t feel they look the right way, so they don’t want to interact with potential partners. They focus on their flaws rather than their gifts. They don’t have time for themselves. They don’t invest in themselves. They’re waiting for [insert future thing here]. And they often come seeking more confidence.

I’ll posit that love starts small, and it starts close.

Anyone who’s ever done metta (lovingkindness meditation) will recognize that we start with: “May *I* be happy…”. After sending lovingkindness to ourselves, THEN we send it to others, and eventually out into the world (which may be needed more than ever). But it’s with the individual that it begins. (Put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others!)

When I work with clients, one of the primary themes I see is that people are very hard on themselves. We need to stop beating ourselves up. No, we’re not perfect, and we never will be. We need to bring some balance to how we perceive ourselves: we have positive qualities, we have negative qualities. And if we love who we are, we love them both. We also love who we were, and we love who we have the potential to become. Without judgment. When you’re in a relationship, you have to accept the not-so-great stuff about your partner too. It comes with the package. So do you.

Without self-love, we may not feel we have anyone to show love to. But we ALWAYS have someone: we have ourselves.

I can almost hear people snickering while reading that. (I know because I can imagine myself having done just that a few years ago.) And take a moment to really let that snicker set in: how can you expect anyone else to see how fantastic you are if you don’t let that energy shine through?! It’s a catch-22 for sure. Some of us need to change that feedback loop.

How do you treat yourself? If you don’t care for yourself, can you love yourself?

When I first started dating my partner, he would say “I care about you.” It would frustrate me a bit. I wanted him to say the big three words: “I love you.” But as I write this years later, I now recognize and believe that “care” is a prerequisite for “love”. What naturally follows is that I think self-love first requires practicing self-care.

Make the time around this Valentine’s Day to sow the seeds of self-love.

Start small, start with you, start with self-care. Learn to make the time, spend the money, do what you need to do because you deserve to care for yourself! At first you may have to fake it. You may have to go through the motions. You may feel some stuff come up. But what–besides your self-esteem, your confidence, and your ability to love others–do you have to lose?

If you haven’t already felt it, I get it, and I’m here to help. If you’re the sort of person who knows you don’t truly love yourself (yet), but are ready to begin caring for yourself in small ways, or if you feel you could benefit from learning new ways of caring for yourself this month, please:

Join my 7-Day Self-Care Challenge over on Facebook

Every day for 7 days, you’ll get something in your Facebook feed that helps you take care of you. You’ll get to see others share what they’re doing (for encouragement, inspiration, motivation, and connection). It’s completely FREE and it’s your CHOICE to join. We start February 12 and go through the 18th. Invite friends, invite family, invite strangers. The more the merrier!

And, if you participate all 7 days, there will be a small gift for you. To learn more, head over to the Facebook group so you don’t miss it! 😉

(1) The chart totals 35 because some people indicated multiple answers.
(2) I summarized the answers with a catch phrase for the chart. The details were:

  • A – I could give 2 s**ts about Valentine’s Day–it’s a normal day for me.
  • B – It’s a nice sentiment but we don’t do anything special or we do something special AROUND that day so as to avoid the craziness
  • C – I love this day because I love my partner & want the world to see / know it! We have a magical day!
  • D – I use this day to show extra love & care toward myself.
  • E – Other (you tell me).

(3) I tallied responses on January 30, and more came in after…however those seemed to confirm what was already there.

Learning How to Poach

I feel slightly strange that my first post of the year is about something so…well, almost mundane. However, there are some really BIG things percolating inside and out, and as much as I am typically an “over-sharer”, I’m choosing to keep some things a little closer to the vest right now. Close friends know what I’m talking about, and I expect it all to unravel here at some point. Just not yet.

So, happy near year all.

The other day I got a “wild hair” (as my friend Pam used to say) to learn to poach an egg. I still can’t fathom why exactly, other than that eggs are something I eat for breakfast frequently, and I was getting rather bored of them.

Of course upon my decision to learn this, Danil googled and sent me this marvelous video. I have never seen Jacques Pépin and was impressed and amused. I couldn’t imagine why I’d need to put the eggs in an ice bath after cooking though, especially if I wanted to eat them immediately. I also couldn’t see trimming off the white edges to make them look more presentable: that’s valuable protein, and I’m not presenting them to guests or anything!

The next morning I decided to try this. It was a mild disaster. I didn’t use the spoon soon enough to stop the white part of the egg from sticking to the bottom of the shallow pan.  But I was happy to have a use for the white vinegar.

The morning after that, I’d learned from my mistake.

The first egg came out nearly perfect and I was terribly proud of myself. But I (think) because I had the water boiling too rapidly, the second one came out awful. Still I was happy with the consistency of the yolk. Contrary to many poached egg fans, I don’t prefer my yolks to be all that runny!

This morning I’m happy to report that after only 3 attempts at this process, I came out with 2 eggs that I found both presentable and delicious! Again the first was more presentable than the second; tomorrow I may try changing out the water–I’m using a small skillet–before cooking the second. This morning I also dropped them onto a paper towel, which did much to absorb the water but may have resulted on some loss of appearance when I went to remove them.

If you’re anything like me, a new year gives you a little “kick in the pants” to try new things. I think a lot of times we’re very focused on having those things be BIG. But as learning to poach has shown me, the small wins can be fun and satisfying, as well as encouraging. Especially when the BIG things will (naturally) take longer to manifest.

Happy poaching!