My friend Lydia Puhak, coach and creator of The Sensitive Idealist, recently interviewed me as part of her series on Self-Care. You can listen to our sweet conversation here.
Funny how sometimes the most important lessons we learn are the quiet, gradual processes that unfold out of necessity.
That would be the case with me and my learning about self-care.
Back in late 2010, I burst on to the scene with my “5 Principles of Self-Care for Caring Professionals”. I wrote a blog post, hosted a series of calls, then turned the material into an online course.
And then I left it at that.
I got “busy” with the work of living these principles in my own life. I came face-to-face with my own version of workaholism, and started on the path of recovery. I unplugged from the computer and went outside. A lot.
I got back in touch with a slower way of doing things – growing a garden, cooking meals instead of heating up trays of food, forming more real relationships in the real world.
The biggest (and smallest) change I’ve remained committed to during this entire almost-three-year period is how I start my day. Continue reading →
There was a time when I believed – when I was totally convinced – that I could not take a day off.
Maybe it was the example of my parents, whom I saw work tirelessly every single day, never letting go of the responsibilities of their jobs, and never taking a day off unless they were absolutely required to (and by that I mean, being so sick they had to be admitted to the hospital).
Or maybe it was medical school, where I learned by working alongside residents and fellows who would regularly show up to work sick, because they “couldn’t take a day off”. On one rotation, I recall the vascular surgery fellow being so rundown from flu-like symptoms that he had to dash out of the operating room to throw up in the scrub sink during a procedure he was performing. I watched wide-eyed and took everything in, my mind drawing the conclusion that “people with important jobs can never take a day off“.
I became determined to find work that would enable me to take a day off, and still be considered important.
The problem was, I really had no idea what was truly important to me. I had many concepts that had been implanted by messages from my family, from images in movies and advertisements, and from the culture in which I was living. “What’s important” was a moving target, a reaction to whatever “everyone else” appeared to be doing.
Meanwhile, in my heart I knew that I wanted to make a difference in this world, to care about something genuinely, and to share my story somehow in this life.
But the only way I knew – based on what I had seen, learned, and been taught – was to put my head down and work.
I worked hard at everything I did. I didn’t take many days off. When I did, I remember feeling an odd combination of freedom and loss.
“Who am I without my email inbox full of requests and my voicemail full of messages?”
“Who am I when I am not answering to anyone else?”
“What would I choose to do if I had an entire day with no obligations, no one telling me where to be or what I had to do?”
I honestly believe that few of us – regardless of whether we work as “creatives” or not – intentionally set out to kill our own creativity.
We may just gently turn our backs on it, dismissing it as something reserved for children, or as something only “irresponsible” adults indulge in, or as a waste of time that could never serve a purpose in society (ie, getting paid money for it), or as something only “talented people” get to do.
I’m here to say that none of those is absolutely true.
Creativity is not limited to art…
So, let’s say you’re longing for a more creative life. That could mean anything from having more freedom and flexibility in your current job, to finding a way to support yourself while expressing your own creativity.
I don’t define creativity as being limited to “artistic” activities like painting, dancing, singing, or sculpting pottery. I define creativity as our innate human ability to connect with the unseen. By this definition, I see every human being as creative, by virtue of our brain’s ability to spontaneously form images that are only seen in our mind’s eye.
How you choose to use your creativity is a different story.
And this is where many of us have killed our own creativity, or least left it for dead. Continue reading →
It’s been just over a year now since I stepped with clarity into the next phase of my life by leaving a business I came to California to create, back in 2004. I’ve told the story so many times that it may seem like “old news” to some of you, but for me, that one decision was a *huge* step. It cleared the way for so much magic that has emerged – through effort and spontaneous creativity, guided by intention and enabled by practice – over the past year.
Last week I went through the embodied steps of letting go – moving all the physical items out of the Cradle of Manifestation after acknowledging that a 1,800-square-foot facility no longer matched the life I am creating. In the process, I’ve come face-to-face with so many of my deeply held beliefs and default patterns.
I believed that being a “responsible” person – a piece of my identity I held tightly as a symbol of my worthiness to occupy space on this planet – meant putting other people’s needs ahead of my own, no matter what the cost.
In my work, this was expressed as taking full responsibility for all outcomes associated with the people I was involved with – which translated into poor delegation, inability to trust other people’s skills and ways of doing things, and the result of preferring to do everything on my own, so it would be perfect. Ultimately, I experienced exhaustion and burnout as the destination on this path.
After I crossed the hurdle of actually setting a boundary, saying “no more” to my own business (which, at the time, was the only path I felt drawn to), and risking the disappointment of other people (which, at the time, was my greatest and most paralyzing fear), the same belief expressed itself as a firm resolve in my mind to continue paying rent on my office space simply because I had signed a lease, and that was that. An agreement was an agreement, with no room for discussion. I was a person who kept my word. But living by those old rules under the new circumstance of starting a business from scratch in a new industry translated to prioritizing my landlords’ needs over my own, which I did for an entire year. I dutifully and silently wrote each check and made sure it arrived before the first of every month. For an entire year.
I was silently proving to myself my own worth as a “responsible” person (daughter, girl), but in fact I was not honoring myself or my fledgling business fully. Continue reading →
Have you ever tried actually doing one thing at a time?
I’ve found that it takes a tremendous amount of trust – an amount I often don’t have – to truly do one thing at a time.
Somehow my brain prefers that high-anxiety mode of doing many things at once, having many irons in the fire, keeping many options open, so to speak. But the reality of that mode is nothing ever gets done, and I never feel totally complete. In other words, I set myself up to prove the belief that underlies this kind of behavior: “I am not enough.”
To turn this behavior around, I first choose a new thought to believe: “I am complete, as I am, in this moment.”
At first, I repeat it as a mantra that sounds ridiculous because my brain has never practiced focusing attention on all the ways that I am, in fact, complete, as I am, in this moment. I have trained my brain, for many years and quite intensively, to find all the ways that “I am not enough” – all the ways that I “should be” doing more than what I am doing right now.
But since I have made the choice to be and do in a different way, to connect with a different energy as the source of my actions, I keep repeating that mantra. I allow myself some stillness and some time to find one example of how I am really complete, as I am, in this moment. I find some gentleness toward myself as I learn a new way. I remember that I am like a toddler, about to take my first steps, and joyfully falling and getting up more times than I will be able to count.
I choose something to do, in this moment, which gives me the feeling in my body of being complete as I am. These days, it is a hike. I get to move my body, deepen my breath, and bring my senses in contact with nature – the sky, the cool air, the silence.
Yesterday I happened to shoot two videos – one before my hike, and one after. I think you’ll see a visible difference in my face, or at least sense a different energy from me, in the two videos. Plus, in the second video I leave you with two questions to ask yourself about your own restorative practices.
Give yourself treats! My treat last week was a hike every day, no matter how much I thought I had to get done. The result? I got more done, had better ideas, and more positive things happened spontaneously! And I felt peaceful every single day. Try it for yourself.
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“:
manage blood pressure
reduce blood sugar
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 →
Making sound with breath and voice is the ultimate union of mind, body, and spirit.
In this 3-week series, we will discuss the use of sound in meditation, self-care, and creativity, and practice the healing sounds of the five warrior seed syllables from the Tibetan Bon tradition.
I am excited to explore my deepening understanding of the power of sound healing with you.
gain a basic understanding of the use of sound in meditation,
experience how making sound can clear and quiet the mind,
explore the application of healing sounds in creating balance and harmony in your daily life.
Upon completing the series, you will have the foundational tools to begin your own home practice using healing sounds.
The first 30 minutes of each class will be spent discussing the seed syllable and the philosophy as described by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche. We will then move into a 15-20 minute sounding practice, and conclude with a 15 minute guided reflection/journaling time where you can consider the application of this practice in your daily life.
There will be emphasis on the practice of sound healing in removing blocks and barriers in the mind, deepening your access to the positive qualities already within you, and uncovering your innate creativity and wisdom.
This series is based on the teachings of Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, author of “Tibetan Sound Healing” (available on Amazon, includes CD).
It is highly recommended, but not required, that you read Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche’s book before and/or during this series.