Exercise Your Write To Be Free

Photo by Jeffrey James Pacres https://www.flickr.com/photos/jjpacres/
Photo by Jeffrey James Pacres https://www.flickr.com/photos/jjpacres/
I rarely share client stories, but a recent experience is birthing a whole new way of working for me. I just finished a 30-day writing experiment with a physician client who is just starting out on a brand new path. Having already found the courage to leave his medical practice and head into the open space of the unknown, we worked on rekindling a secret dream he's held for a long time, maybe his whole life: writing. He always wanted to try writing, but never did because he had a belief it was too impractical and was no way to make a living. Yet he knew he had stories to share, and ones that would help others if he did. I wanted to hear these stories myself. I was curious what touched him so deeply about his experiences in medicine. I knew that in hearing these stories, we could both experience a healing journey. So I came up with this idea, which I had never done with a client before: a writing experiment. The assignment was to write daily for ten minutes a day, thirty days in a row. Then send that writing to me, which I read every day. Mostly we let the process run itself, but we had two phone conversations during the month, once to check in and then again to review the entire process. I knew that a small, daily commitment done over a sustained period of time would lead to something. A new habit at the very least. An awakened sense of hope and creativity I envisioned as possible. What I didn't expect was the vast territory we would cover in those ten minutes of daily writing each day. Not only did I learn from my client's deep minings that occurred from this type of reflection, but I heard accounts of key moments, important feelings, and long-held beliefs that it might have taken months to get to with traditional weekly phone coaching calls. In timed writing, you get to the heart of the matter quickly. You can try to dance around, squirm a bit, but the hand keeps moving and the clock keeps ticking, and something gets said that has juice to it, even if at the very end. And when you have a curious, compassionate witness, who wants to hear more, and will ask you questions and deliver you the next prompt to inspire more writing, it unfolds with surprising beauty. Continue reading "Exercise Your Write To Be Free"

Leaning in…to what?

woman leaning illustration There's going to be some talk about leaning in. I’d like to speak about “leaning in” from the perspective of a woman who learned the men’s rules and did pretty well for awhile. I picked up all the cues about how I was supposed to behave, what I was supposed to do to play the game, how I could win. I earned a seat at the boardroom table, surrounded by men. I am grateful for the doors that were opened for me, when I behaved a lot like a successful man. I rode the bus for a few rounds before I got off and started the process of sitting in front of the blank page, making up my own game, creating my own rules, and teaching myself a whole new way of "leaning in". When we talk about “leaning in”, we have to talk about what that really means for individuals. To me, “leaning in” is about going toward the places that scare you. The real question is, “What scares you?” Most of us are living in remote places that are carefully designed to be far out of reach from what really scares us. We have concocted our plans based on meticulous avoidance of everything that really scares us. We believe that this construction project actually spares us the feeling of being scared, but it follows us. It never leaves us. It camps out in dark corners inside us. We dart, we duck, we hide, we layer on coats of paint and makeup and accessories and postures that we think – hope – will cover it up. But it plagues us. We seek relief, but we also secretly believe we’ll never find it. We think this is as good as it gets, so we keep pointing in the same direction. So what are we leaning into? Continue reading "Leaning in…to what?"

Be Careful What You Wish For…

Last year I made a vision board for who I am and how I feel when I express my creativity. I had devoted 2010 to my Core of Peace, and I was setting a new intention for 2011. I didn't know exactly HOW my creativity would be expressed. But by making the vision board I connected with images and words that captured how I knew it would FEEL to be in that place of expression. I let go of the HOW, because I didn't - and couldn't - know at the time what the exact steps would be. I breathed deeply into the feelings of my own creativity, and allowed images to attract me without needing an explanation or a meaning or a concept. They were just images that I loved, for no "reason" at all. Here is the vision board I made: I have it as the wallpaper image on my laptop, so every time I open my computer, the images enter my consciousness. Most days, I don't sit and deliberately stare at every image on my screen, but I know they are there. I haven't thought about that vision board in many months. I have gone about the business of living, of staying in my Core of Peace, of letting some things go, and picking up other things, of planting seeds and watching them grow, all the while noticing that I cannot force growth to happen any faster than it already is. Last night I looked at it again. It was with a sense of amazement that I noticed how many of the images had actually come into my reality during 2011. In other words, my visions had come true! Continue reading "Be Careful What You Wish For…"

Solving the Puzzle of the Universe

A few days ago I solved the puzzle of the universe. It came in a box. There were 500 pieces and a neat image of the final product - what the solution was supposed to look like. I had a partner while I was doing it. We didn't discuss how we were going to tackle the problem, we just started working on it, each in our own way. There were no words. Things just began when they began, and ended when they ended. I noticed that I wanted to follow some instructions that were somewhere in the back of my head about "how to" solve a puzzle like this. "Start with the edges and corners," was one set of instructions. "Find the colored pieces first," was another. I tried both of those, but the puzzle was just so big, so complicated, with so many parts, that I quickly got frustrated with each of those approaches. I made a tiny bit of progress, but immediately got stuck following those two paths. Continue reading "Solving the Puzzle of the Universe"

A Story of Two Hikes

Lately I have found that the best "medicine" I can give myself during the course of a day is to get out of my chair and go on a hike. I am fortunate to live within a few minutes' drive of several open space preserves, so there are no excuses! Except the voices in my head saying that I "should" be "working"...a very narrowly defined version of working indeed. I've found that every time I actually take the action of going on the hike - against the more prudent advice of the thoughts in my heads saying things like, "Breaks are for the weak", and, "Working hard is the only way to survive in life" - I experience a burst of creative ideas and energetic opening, which makes me grateful for every breath and every step I can take. It's not like "working out" at the gym, which I did for many years and with much gusto. Recently I took a hike and recorded two videos - one before and one afterwards. I set an intention (or actually a "goal") of practicing self-acknowledgment during the hike, since I had spent the better part of the day flogging myself to work harder, falling into the old thought pattern of, "It's never enough." About halfway through the hike, I realized that in the effort and concentration of pursuing my goal of self-acknowledgment, I had not acknowledged anything that was going on in my immediate surroundings! I had not taken in the particular sights, sounds, and other physical sensations of being on a walk outdoors surrounded by open space and natural vistas. My head was down for most of the first half of the hike. But once I realized this halfway through, and opened myself to experience the present moment, I softened my gaze. I was not working so hard to be on this hike and accomplish rejuvenation as if it were another homework assignment by a teacher. I was shifting into receptivity and noticing everything gently, in real time. I started to look UP at the sky, notice the sounds of the birds, appreciate how the outline of the mountains against the sky, on this particular day, were barely visible because of the misty haze. I started to listen to the sound of my own footsteps on the trail, and how they provided a steady, soft rhythm over which the birds occasionally improvised their solos. During the second half of my hike, there was a shift into musicality from what had started out mechanically. This was my experience of coming into the present moment. You hear Eckhart Tolle and Oprah and other teachers talking about "being in the present moment", but what is your own experience of it, in your own body? I post this as a reminder that we may spend lots of time trying to learn something, or pay someone to teach us "how to" do something, or read blog after blog in search of the answer to the questions in our heart. I believe that learning and growth are the ultimate purpose of our lives here on earth. However, keep in mind that the most important thing to do while learning is to notice yourself as you learn. By developing the ability to notice what is going on inside you, how you are applying the lessons specifically in your life, and honoring your experience as you respond to being taught, you are giving yourself the true gift of learning...and healing. I encourage you to find the energy of openness and receptivity in your daily life through your own practice....maybe it's a hike, or maybe it's something else. Discover what restores YOU! Video before the hike (where I set my intention): Video after the hike (which felt like two different hikes based on a mind shift halfway through):

AHA’s “Simple 7″…Not So Simple After All

The other night I read on the back of a friend's T-shirt the following list of guidelines from the American Heart Association (AHA)'s latest heart-healthy lifestyle campaign, called "Life's Simple 7":
  • get active
  • control cholesterol
  • eat better
  • manage blood pressure
  • lose weight
  • reduce blood sugar
  • stop smoking
From my medical training, I recognized each of these 7 items as addressing the major risk factors for coronary artery disease and therefore heart attacks and strokes. However, from my journey of learning about the connection between mind and body, and especially the ways in which our mind dictates the feelings, behaviors, and results we see in our lives, I noticed that these "Simple 7" are not so simple at all. Four of the seven guidelines involve behavioral changes. Three of the seven can be addressed with pharmaceutical drugs but are also dependent on these behavioral changes in order to have maximum impact. These areas of behavior change - exercise, diet, weight loss, and smoking cessation - are typically the most challenging and frustrating for both patients and doctors in a preventive setting. Continue reading "AHA’s “Simple 7″…Not So Simple After All"

Why I Created “Self-Care for the Caring Professional”

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If You’re Not First, You’re Last….is it true? What Ricky Bobby Taught Me

Are you on a fast track to nowhere? I recently watched the movie Talledega Nights again. It's a masterpiece in so many ways, but now, as a life coach, I see a different layer of wisdom in the story of Ricky Bobby. We live in a culture that teaches us about winning. We worship winners. We are scared to death of losing. We avoid it like the plague. I'm not sure when the American Dream became inflated to this point, or if it was always like this and I'm just noticing it now. But the fancy ZIP codes, the latest fashions, the plastic surgery, the fitness programs, the high-paying jobs, the flashy cars...all of these toys and amusements, which have become SO glamorous and fun as the demand for them has gone up, are substitutes for the relationships we are seeking with ourselves. As I look around at our human condition, I see that we share a common need to belong. We share a common need to feel loved. We share a common need to love someone or something, and be able to express it. And we share a common need to tell the truth in our hearts. The problem is, we're not taught to acknowledge what we truly need. We buy into the concept that if we just keep racing to win, we'll have everything we ever thought we needed. Well, have you ever gotten to the very top of your game, accomplished the goals that have been put in front of you, and still ended up feeling empty? If you know what I'm talking about, then read on. Continue reading "If You’re Not First, You’re Last….is it true? What Ricky Bobby Taught Me"

Practicing Balance – Part 2 of 2

This post grew out of my reflections on being confused...read Part 1 if you haven't already. With all the talk of clarity, power, intention, success, and purpose, it can be a little intimidating to acknowledge when you have a moment of confusion. But there is a time for confusion. And until we can acknowledge and admit this to ourselves, we cannot move through it. We gloss over the surface of it, trying to fix the outer appearance of our lives, staying busy and enrolled in things, buying more, doing more, hoping that all that activity will make the confusion go away. It's true that action and forward motion is such a powerful antidote to feeling stuck and ruminating for too long. But I've also found that acknowledging the truth, and being able to rest in the feeling of truth, is an essential starting point.

From "Woo Woo" to "Win Win"....where's the balance? Continue reading "Practicing Balance – Part 2 of 2"

At Peace with Confusion – Part 1 of 2

I don't know about you, but I'm finding that I'm easily hooked by the idea that I need expert advice in order to do something "right", and that I need a formula to follow in order to be successful. With all of my inner work over the past year and a half, you'd think I'd be over it. You'd think I'd have found Nirvana, bliss, equanimity, access to Buddha nature. Yeah, I thought so too. What I'm really finding is that life keeps challenging me to keep a sense of humor as I learn to trust myself. I veer off the path (or am I merely on a twisty part of it?) and find myself enrolled in another program, following dutifully along like the great student I've always been. But then I look at the pile of assignments I've given myself, and I wonder, "What test am I studying for? Whose grade am I trying to earn here?" Continue reading "At Peace with Confusion – Part 1 of 2"