My universe is shifting

Part of this whole 'having my own coaching practice' thing was trying to figure out what the balance would be. Would I have a consulting or full time gig, and do coaching on the side? Would I try to go all in on coaching? Or do a bunch of freelance gigs? Maybe add in a photography gig in there somewhere? Well, the last nine months have been all of those things to some degree. And I still do not have an answer or that magical ratio figured out. Actually, what has been moving and shaking in my world has been in the personal and health realm. 

I had surgery last Thursday, and if you want to join me on that journey, I woud love it. I decided to separate my work and post-surgical journey a bit, as I'll be sharing some - most likely- personal anecdotes, before and after pictures, etc. The fear I think any coach would have if in my shoes is that their potential clients would be turned off by this personal transformation journey. That they don't want a coach who isn't already perfect. Isn't that a riot? On the one hand, you probably want your coach to have their world in order, but any coach will tell you that if they haven't been in the trenches, or waded through their own issues and come out the other side, they're far less effective. It's a super power for a coach when they've been through challenges. It's to your benefit. If you want a perfect coach, well, one, that doesn't exist, and two, maybe you need to reevaluate what your expectations are of your own coaching experience, your goals, and your coach. 

Still, I thought it wise to separate, so I can really be authentic, and keep this blog about the learnings surrounding coaching, and the more professional experiences I have. Things have been in flux. I'm open to work, and I'm open to new clients. I have so much capacity for exciting, creative, challenging work, and I'm just excited for the universe to make it happen. Meanwhile, I'm doing what I can, where I can. But mostly, I'm focusing on my health, recovery, and living life on the skinny branches! :)

My blog: fatgirlskinnybranches.com

 

Just a small update

Boy, it's been a while. 

With the exception of the letter from my dad I posted for Father's Day, it has been crickets on here. There is a lot that has - and is - going on!

Of course, there was my graduation from grad school, and my mother's visit to town. Then there was the theater stuff I was doing at the Guthrie, and other fun acting/voice over classes. 

I'm in a weird, exciting, anxiety-producing vortex of transition right now. Grad school was a part of my life for four years and now it's just... not. God, I love school. I really do. I'm that person. I get it from my mom. I recently geeked out about what it's like getting a fresh syllabus on your first day, envious of a friend who is just starting her masters journey. 

I've recently decided to become a founding coach for a new venture that will hopefully be coming out this year to aspiring entrepreneurs. I'll have to post more on it when I can. It's big.

I have some unexpected health stuff that I'm dealing with this week, as well a big health-related event that I'm currently working towards. It's a good thing. It's going to be a big, big deal for me. And you can bet that I will write more about it when it feels more real and there's a date set, etc. Right now, I just want to be able to not need pain reliever all the time. Once I can move past that, I'll be aces. 

What I love (and honestly hate) about this moment in my life is the potential and the uncertainty. There are so many open doors, so many avenues, and I feel sometimes unable to choose. The downside to that is standing still. As a coach, I appreciate this personal moment of doubt and indecision because it means that when a client goes through this, I can say, "I know the terrain well- see, look-- there are my shoe prints!" And then we go shoulder to shoulder to carve their path. Ah, I love coaching. 

That's my update- probably a welcome reprieve from my normally verbose writings!

Stay well, my friends. 

E

 

A letter from my father

My father passed away after a long battle with cancer in 2008. This is a letter he gave me in 1998, on Christmas. I was 14. I thought, since today is the 8th anniversary of his passing and also happens to be father's day, it would be a good opportunity to share some excerpts from this lovely man's letter. At 3.5 pages, it may be too long to fully share here. It is a gift that, I can assure you, keeps on giving. I encourage you to read it generally as if it were to you. (TL;DR: My dad was amazing.)

Happy Christmas, Ericka

1998

Dearest daughter,

This seems like a good opportunity to take some time to say things to you I probably don't say as often as I should and could. I am repeatedly very impressed with you; the kind of person you've become and are becoming; your maturity and insights, your thoughtfulness, kindness, openness of heart and mind, your talents, skills and willingness to be helpful, supportive. all these things combine to warm my heart, stimulate and challenge my mind and make me so proud of you. Words fail to say it well enough.

There are so many things I wish we could do for you, with you and support you in doing, achieving, etc. I think of all you've accomplished and all you could and am astounded at who you are, perhaps who you are about to become.

Although you are still a teen, not an adult, you have many of the skills and insights of an adult, while remaining in other ways not yet an adult. I appreciate your attempts to be helpful to me in many ways, helping me understand you and your age mates, giving me feedback on how I appear to you and them, wanting to contribute to the small successes I achieve in the things I do around town, etc.

You have met well changes which have destroyed so many others and grown stronger in spite of obstacles no one should have had to face and overcome. Your efforts to deal with age mates -- not peers, because you have so few your age who live so well as you do -- other kids who, as some sort of "self-appointed elite" have excluded you, attempts to refuse your place among them, value as a person and yet, you have persisted, with patience, understanding, resilience and determination not to turn aside into anger and retaliation. 

At times, your habit of resisting direction, which makes you so wonderfully independent, can expose you to deadly harm, if you choose the wrong time to delay responding to your mother or me, when we see danger you don't.

Right now, as you move through your adolescence with more grace than any parent can reasonably expect from a child, things are rocky, especially with your mom, but also sometimes with me. Please, have patience. This tempest will pass and the warmth and strength of what we are sharing now will endure and become stronger, once freed from the struggles of growing through this part of your maturing .Use your powers of observation and judgment to look beyond the superficial aspects of the conflicts you have with us, see the underlying concerns and distractions in our lives which lead us to sometimes react too harshly to you, to listen too little and speak too quickly, as we miss doing the same with you. You can now help us through this time with about as much skill as we try to help you through it. Together, we can do it even better than we are now.

Just as you struggle through the challenges of your own development in these years, I continue to struggle with my own. Even as the years go past which are now all ahead of you, there will be such struggles as you remain on the frontiers of your growth, meeting new and ever more challenging tasks, new experiences, encounter the unexpected events and people life hold. Never stop exploring. Never stop growing and learning. But explore without agenda that hold you back, agenda which impose fences between which you must find all that you seek. Too often, the answers we need are outside those fences and beyond the horizons such agenda impose. Judgment is essential as you decide which limits to push and how far. Do not fear to make mistakes, they are unavoidable, if you continue to live life on the edge of growing, changing, and exploring, discovering. Do not waste perfectly good mistakes by not learning anything from them, even if they are the mistakes of others, but especially when they are your own. Once you have learned all you can from them, simply discard them and go on with your life. I trust that you will not take this to mean you can be unconcerned when your mistakes hurt others. Those hurts must be healed as much as possible. You cannot, however, make the decisions for others nor they for you so, how much you can repair such damage partly depends on whether others are willing to do so, too. Today, when I asked you about your advice on how I might deal with the challenges I face, you responded "Dad, you're not God," A wise statement and once I will do well to remember. Nor are you God and sometimes others will refuse to respond to your attempts to help them, just as they do mine. In such times and conditions, we must relinquish to others the choices which are theirs and continue to make our own as well as we can.

At confirmation this last week, I was surprised at some of your answers. I expected more of your usual good insights that I heard. It made me think we needed to talk more about such things than we do. I have avoided those topics, partly because I have such a reputation for long-winded, especially about " God stuff", that I've tried not to stuff all that down your throat. Perhaps, I've swung too far for the other direction and we need to talk more of topics concerning faith, God, religion, etc. than we have. Not that I will tell you what to believe so much as I hope to provide the stimulation to help you find your own way. Mostly, I think I'd like to help you discover how very real and immediate is the help available to you from God in your everyday living, with school work, friendships, finding stuff you've forgotten where you put it, etc. Simple everyday little routine stuff-- and other, much more "important" stuff as well. Just becoming aware of God with you, anywhere, anytime, in any setting or conditions is an awesome experience that will infuse you like nothing else can. It clarifies all sorts of things that otherwise seem so tangled and vague that we are frustrated and lack the direction we need to move forward effectively. Great stuff, that, but I guess I've not offered as much help with discovering it as I should have. I'll try harder in future. 

Living with you is and has been a wonderful experience for me, and I think, your mother as well. You constantly surprise me-- us -- with your wit, your imagination and skills as many things. I must resist strongly the tendency to push you into doing things I would do, if I had that talent, etc. You must find your own ways to use them and decide toward what you will grow as you do. You could be gifted in art, music, writing, and many, many other areas, perhaps in several of them. Achieving that will take a great deal of effort on your part, of course. Basic skills of focusing attention, being aware of what is happening around you and more, all combine to support success in a wide range of things. Those are the things I hope I have or will soon be able to help you learn and make part of you to the point that you no longer need to deliberately think about doing them. Because of the independence you have already learned, how well I succeed in helping you do that will pretty much depend on how much you are willing to allow. Independence, you see, is sort of a two-edged sword. It permits you to be free of too much influence from others, including parents, but it also means that, if you wish to do so, you can harm yourself greatly by ignoring help you could really benefit from using. much of your life is already fully within your own hands and a great deal of responsibility with that. In being capable of and demanding that independence, you have also gained the responsibility.

I trust there is not the slightest doubt in your mind that we both love you very much. Beyond that, we greatly admire and respect you for many things. We are proud to have been a part of your life so far and look forward to being a part of it for many, many years into the future.

Personally, I really hope you continue working toward the kind of excellence in music and academics as well as other things that you can freely choose which college you attend and do so without the added burdens of having to work as you study. I would love to see you have voice lessons. Your skills now are just at the edge of having a great voice, compared with any context. In syracuse, where not many kids even try to reach a personal best, you already shine brightly by comparison. In a more competitive context, your present skills will seem ordinary, but they could be extraordinary- depending on what you want and what you are willing to do with that talent between here and now and there and then. Since you have so many talents and skills, you have many choices to make. I will be not disappointed that you chose one thing over another. I might be, if you choose nothing much over something that could have become a great deal.

Please understand. I am not talking about money here. While money is essential to get into and through a college education etc., it is not the end all be all of life. Like developing your talents, earning money also allows you choices you could not have had otherwise. It can also distract you so much from yourself that it defines who you are and that would be very destructive for anyone, including you. 

Please be patient with your old and dottering parents as we worry about you and what lies in your future. Perhaps we look too long at the potentials for difficulty and too little at the joys of just being here, doing what you're doing. No one lays perfect plans and sees them develop as planned. Life is so dynamic that we must always be ready to meet the unexpected, deal with situations we did not anticipate. We sometimes sustain losses no one wanted in spite of all our attempts to safeguard ourselves against them. 

As you face some of those in your own life, first, believe in yourself and your ability to learn from whatever experience life throws at you. Believe that you can meet the challenges you will face and overcome most of them, learn even more from those you don't and try again for whatever success comes to mean for you.

I believe that your faith is probably the most important tool in doing that well. What you have now is good, but it is not developed. Time and experience are needed to put such things into perspective, to allow you to learn the lessons needed as you develop your own faith and decide what works best for you. Whether that means you continue to be Lutheran or become something else matters far less than whether it works for you, produces the results which strengthen you and through you many others. Never fear to challenge your faith as severely as you can. Especially your own faith, because it is the one on which you most depend. No matter how well someone else's faith works for them, it is your own which works or does not work for you. No one else can do that for you and you should never even allow anyone to try. Your life is for you to live. No one else can or should try. Neither do you try to live someone else's. Support them all you can, but they must remain free to live their own life as you live yours. 

I have the greatest confidence in you. While I expect great things of you, what sorts of great things you may achieve remains for you to discover and decide for yourself. If what you are doing and capable of doing now is anything to go by, you'll do that just fine, too.

I--we--are there for you now and throughout your life. Now, and forever, we love you more dearly than any words can express.

Fare well. Sail on, fly high, dive deep, be yourself, even more perfectly than you are now.

All my love, 

Dad

Putting yourself out there

A not-so revolutionary recap of smart things to do when networking. 

Wayne Gretzky was a great mathematician.

Everyone loves the word networking these days. As someone who nerdily enjoys sociology and social psychology, I love people watching and am fascinated by networking. In my professional world of coaching, it requires a lot of it. Add being a small business owner and it exponentially increases the need and usefulness of networking. Almost anytime I ask a trusted advisor --  like a magic 8-ball-- for the answers to my businessy questions, they say "Go network". (I know how to coach, but boy has the business acumen been a steep hill to climb.)

So, with that sage wisdom in mind, Go Network. It might seem obvious, but the first step in getting out there is simply getting out there, just like Wayne Gretzky kind of said*.  Build your tribe. Your squad. Find your people, and then find their people and make them your people, too. Even if you're an individual contributor, no matter your age-  get out there. 

Like Grey's Anatomy, everything important happens in an elevator

So like any smart person, I listen to those wiser than I, and I network. I go to various events. I ask people to coffee. I hand out business cards, which honestly still makes me feel like I'm playing dress up in my mom's business pumps and pearls. I really struggled, and still do sometimes, to get myself out there. It felt salesy. It felt weird. It was the - period - worst - period. I was tongue tied anytime someone asked me what I do. Which is why those aforementioned wise people would follow 'go network' with -and sing it with me everyone- 'know your elevator pitch'. Oi.

My elevator pitch was less Wolf of Wall Street chic and more an avalanche of explanation. Sometimes too academic, sometimes too mired in preempting what the average person knows or often misunderstands about my work. I tried going the other way and made it super simple. "I'm a coach", I'd say, proud of myself for not verbally vomiting all over the nice stranger. But then they would either shrug, or say 'what sport?' So my super short method wasn't working either. Knowing how to explain clearly and succinctly what you do is majorly important. Rehearse it. Experiment with it. Gauge reactions, ask your newfound tribe how it lands. The more I said "I'm a coach" or "I own my own coaching practice", the more my confidence, and frankly, my belief, went up. The more I could add (in snippets) what rocks my world about it, the more engaged people became.

Describing your ideal client is not too far off from dating, and has some of the same struggles.

Identifying your target client is like dating in that you need to dream a little when conjuring who you want, and you need to think about what will make you excited to see that person again and again. For me, I've worked with a variety of people, ages, backgrounds, etc. and I decided that one of the groups I really love working with are people in job/life transition. Quite often, those people are 15-20 years older than me. Many of them are executives or higher level leadership types. 

Being younger, it can make it seem harder for you to toot your own horn let alone hang your own shingle. Especially if you're like me and love working with executives, but have never been one. Once, at a panel discussion at UST about coaching versus mentoring, a woman in her 50's told me that she would never use me as her coach because I'm too young. I wasn't even a coach yet. We were both audience members and I had just asked a question about age differences and coaching for the panel. From across the room, she wanted to add her point that no, she wouldn't want a younger coach.

That was my first taste of being told no before I had even stepped foot into the arena, purely on speck. There's a case to be made for working with someone who has been an executive before, and been where you are. A valid case, especially if you're looking for a mentor. Though I think some would be surprised at the breadth of my life experiences (book/cover and all that), I honestly don't need to be expert in your industry, your company, or have had the corner office. Even though this can sometimes be an obstacle for some potential clients, it's okay if it's a deal breaker. A year after this woman's comment, I was working with a president of an organization, who was over 20 years older than me, who loved working with me. With the exception of a few, every client I have had has been at least 10 years older than I am. So I know it is possible. Just like dating, they'll either come to understand what I'm offering, or they're simply not for me, and they can continue to look for the right person. Plenty of fish in the sea.

Be a person first

It can absolutely be overwhelming and daunting because each person you handshake can be a potential client. When it's your livelihood, you start seeing people as giant dollar signs, or the difference between ramen, well, not ramen. Frankly, this is still my learning edge as a business owner. So what I have to remind myself before walking into a networking situation is that I need to be a person first. Not steer conversation a certain way. Not employ sales tactics. The desperation oozed out of me when I first started, and it was because I forgot to be a person first. As a coach, I am eternally curious about people- their fascinating stories, their triumphs, their narratives, their dreams. So I bring that curiosity with me to networking. I simply want to help people live the most amazing, juiciest, incredible life and career, and when I tap into that, it comes through. When I start a conversation internally from a place of money worries or whether I am 'doing well' or not as a coach - whatever that means- it also comes through. Be a person first. It's much more fun.

*"You miss 100% of the shots you never take." Look at that! Your odds of successful networking went up tenfold just by showing up.

Sunlight & shame

“Shame derives its power from being unspeakable. That's why it loves perfectionists— it's so easy to keep us quiet. If we cultivate enough awareness about shame to name it and speak to it, we’ve basically cut it off at the knees. Shame hates having words wrapped around it. If we speak shame, it begins to wither. Just the way exposure to light was deadly for the gremlins, language and story bring light to shame and destroys it.” 

— from Daring Greatly by Dr. Brene Brown. 

 

Have you guys read this book? Go get it right now. I’m serious. I just finished chapter three, but it’s already sent me into an epiphany frenzy. In fact, the above quote is from just the opening teaser for chapter three of Dr. Brown’s book. I wanted to stop right there and come write this, but I decided to read the actual chapter and by the end, I was fa-reaking out. 

How many times have you gone to reach out to others only to stop? Maybe you're feeling lonely, wanting connection or to go for the big promotion, only to have your better angels shut down by shame? “No one wants to hang out with you”, it hisses. “No one wants to be with a sad person. You’re not good enough to be loved. You can’t have real friends. If you were cooler, you’d already have plans because people would want to hang out with you. No one will hire/promote you, you're not a leader. Remember that epic mistake? Your ideas suck.” And on and on. If you’re like me, it’s what keeps you from ‘living in community’ and from living fully. From letting others in. From being okay with being ourselves, flaws and all. Shame is deceptively powerful. Shame is also an asshole.

My own narrative regarding my body comes into play here. Dr. Brown gives a bunch of areas where we feel shame, and right up there is body image. ‘You’re only as sick as your secrets’. Our secrets don't have to be things Shonda Rhimes would include as a story plot. Sometimes what needles us into our own shame closet are every day things like our weight, money, or where we did or didn’t go to school. Our careers. Our mistakes. Sex. Not living up to certain societal/cultural expectations of our gender/age/etc. Those things become taboo — unspoken. 

My body shame started in childhood, and like a vestigial organ, it stays with me, hanging there without purpose. Over the past few months, I’ve been talking more candidly about my weight, about the lack of representation in media unless in certain tropes and ‘acceptable’ ways. About the limited options in shopping. Dating. About the little slights in tv and film. If it’s relevant, I even reference it casually in conversation, which can make some uncomfortable. It’s not that I’m trying to talk matter of factly about my weight to devoid myself of feeling, or distance from it emotionally. Quite the opposite. I’ve just learned that if we authentically and lovingly speak our shame and let it see sunshine, it ceases to be verboten. Dr. Brown’s book gave me language to articulate this and see it more clearly.

Here’s an example. Going shopping with a friend, we went to a store with a plus size section. Usually, it’s not the greatest or its picked through of the good pieces, but I decided to check it out. I remarked cheekily to my friend, ‘hopefully the other fat people haven’t gotten here before me’. I meant this somewhat literally and somewhat tongue and cheek, but she was upset about my usage of the word fat. She saw it as self-denigrating. According to her connected dots, fat equals bad. Fat is something to be embarrassed by, ashamed. She tells me I’m beautiful the way I am, but also tells me she’ll help me lose weight. Like I have a zit I need popping, but I still look 'okay'. It reminds me of a stewardess who whispered to me with a sympathetic look as she drug-deal style palmed me a seatbelt extender on those tiny ridiculous planes. But I am fat, and I’m not bad and I’m not ashamed. I used the word fat or overweight because to me, it’s as valid a description as saying I’m a brunette. Talking about being fat, about what it’s like to live as a larger person has helped me get rid of my personal taboo, my own shame. It does not, however, necessarily help others get rid of theirs. 

I’ve watched my shame about my body wither over time. Consciously, I’ve decided to let go of self-created rules (with food, clothes, activities). This has created space for things that are actually helpful and awesome. Things like being starting yoga and going for the headstand. Or speaking up when I need different seating because bar stools are the worst— and not feeling bad for it. The attachment I once had to constantly trying to somehow hide myself and be small is being vanquished because I’ve been putting sunshine on my shame. I’ve decided to not judge, withhold, or create parameters wherein I will or will not be okay with myself. I know that this is not the weight that is the healthiest. It is not the weight that my body wants to be. And yes, it can be frustrating to carry this weight. The difference is that now I will be able to get healthier without diet mentality and lose weight in a way that honors my body and my value as a person. In a way that is void of the gremlins that have always stood in my way. It’s an ongoing choice to embrace myself as is. The useless shame that creeps up is just a weed, and I know how to take care of it.

Self-care vs. self-numbing

Today, I had been totally unfocused, and got absolutely nothing done. It had been what felt like an eon since my last yoga class, my place is a mess, and I was spinning my wheels trying to ‘work’. Mostly, I was oscillating between multitasking with a game on my computer and watching tv; playing a game on my phone and watching tv; and putting together a puzzle…and watching tv. So much multitasking. I’ve become a fidgety person, something that never happened before the smartphone. It is now very difficult for me to just sit here and not do something while the tv is running. I do have one childhood memory that foreshadows my penchant for multitasking. I remember getting a ride to a summer program with a friend and the mom said she was amazed I could read and listen to music at the same time; apparently it bothered her to do so. So perhaps I’ve had the capacity all along. Or, more likely, perhaps the genesis of the smart phone and my ongoing choice to embrace it has drained all the focus out of my head. I digress…

I went to yoga tonight. Finally. I didn’t even want to go. I was so restless. So untethered. Feeling gross mentally. I know I’ve written several times now about yoga, but the more I go, the more I learn. It has been this weird journey for me personally to discover yoga as something I genuinely enjoy — dare I say need. As far as being a Mind Shepherd lately, my shepherd had gone on a long vacation and my sheep were everywhere. Seventy-five minutes of vinyasa later and it was like I had come back to myself again. Grounded. Clear. My dishes are still not done, and there’s clutter everywhere, but I feel more myself than I have lately. (And yes, Mom, I also recognize that cleaning my place up and have an uncluttered space will help.) 

It was at the end of yoga tonight, as I was hilariously attempting to do a headstand, that I realized how very different self care is from self numbing. We often say that we need to take care of ourselves, which for me often means I need to hole up for a while and do nothing but sit on my couch and watch TGIT. That is totally fine and valid. I don’t know about you, but I need to know what Jake is up to on Scandal. After a day like today, I felt numb before I left for yoga. Brain numb. At one point, I felt like a prisoner in my own fuzzy head, unable but really really wanting to focus. After which, I promptly checked to see if I had gotten all my lives back on Two Dots. 

The distinction between self care and self numbing is important. Self care is about loving yourself. Being in tune and aware of your body and mind and spirit and making decisions based on those sensations. Self care is eating strawberries because you love them. Self care is eating a piece of chocolate because you love chocolate. Self care is going to bed early because you feel yourself getting tired. Going to yoga because you know you’ll feel better after. Self numbing is like taking an aspirin for feeling anything. Blocking any of those sensations so you basically don’t feel much of anything. It’s instant gratification through the constant checking of things like social media, games, and entertainment. It’s feeling like you can’t escape the gravitational pull of playing one last game, or checking your Facebook one more time. (Basically addiction.) It’s like when I was young, I would go to the fridge and just look inside because I was bored. Except now, the internet exists and there is no limit to the distractions. My entire day can be a detour instead of taking pit stops along the journey of productivity. There’s self indulgence and then there’s self numbing. Self indulgence can even be part of self care, in moderation. Self numbing makes me think of rotting fruit, except the fruit is your brain. Or your focus. Or your day. 

Today taught me that the tried and true of self care might seem basic, but they’re critical.  I may need to edit what’s on my phone. I know I need to make a home-based yoga practice something I do, especially when my schedule doesn’t allow for me to go to classes. I know I need to clean things up. I know I need to go to bed earlier and stop looking at electronics well in advance of bedtime. I know I need to read more and moth less (moth = being in front of a lit screen). Self care is an intentional practice, and in a lot of ways, I’m just starting. 

Yoga has found me.

I thought a lot about the value of writing about my newfound relationship with yoga. I know, I know– a blog about yet another basic white girl from Uptown Minneapolis with a yoga mat. Ground breaking stuff, huh? 

I'm writing to you having just moments ago finished my fourth class. Four hours of my life have been spent in the last week doing yoga. In positions that made me, quite honestly, sweat, fart, and heavy breathe. My palms are a hot mess of knots and soreness from downward dog, as if the keyboard-based carpel tunnel I am gunning for isn't already enough. When I got to yoga tonight, I had just finished caucusing (yay democracy!), and was feeling anxious about all the things I need to do this week. I knew I was essentially slipping in sideways mentally to my candlelight yoga, and I kept trying to tell myself 'get grounded, let go, allow'. My efforts to calm myself were about as helpful as a man telling his wife to breathe during labor. For most of yoga tonight, I felt like I was going through the motions, not connected to my body, not giving myself love, and not allowing myself to let go. But then, in the last ten minutes of class, I shifted. I forgot about what I was trying to do. My brain changed. I was no longer this frenetic energy, but instead, I was grounded. This, to varying degrees, has been my experience in each yoga class.

Definitely not me.

Definitely not me.

I finally understand yoga, you guys.

Tonight's class was absolutely the hardest night for me mentally. It's almost as if the physical part is secondary. I don't care if I can or cannot do the positions correctly. I'm all about taking breaks, modifications, and I totally laugh at some of the things I can't do. (I'm looking at you, lace-your-fingers-behind-your-back.) I go to yoga to for one thing: to connect with myself. When I leave, I am awash in appreciation for my body. I feel centered. It's magical. 

My favorite part of yoga. "Feel yourself rooted in the ground as it rises to support you." Yes, thank you.

My favorite part of yoga. "Feel yourself rooted in the ground as it rises to support you." Yes, thank you.

 

Yoga was decidedly not my thing. Until it was... Is. I had a narrative in my head about yoga that told me that it's for skinny limber women with toned arms and great abs and I'll hate it and feel uncomfortable and embarrassed. So much useless shame talking there. (And by the way, it is for skinny limber women with toned arms and great abs. It's also for petite large gals with short arms.) When I changed my goal for yoga from weight loss to connection, it all shifted. That plus a groupon, and I was ready for a yoga revolution. I do not take myself seriously in there. I pick my wedgies. I take a breather often and instead of comparing myself to others, I truly admire the abilities of the people around me. I focus on the breath, on how my body feels, and that's it. Just by showing up I've won. No striving necessary. It's a microcosm for how I'm trying to live. 

 

 

3 Ways to Become a Mind Shepherd

Just like any muscle, being more in tune with your feelings, your thoughts, even your body, takes practice. No one snaps their fingers and suddenly has the zen of a buddhist monk just like no one starts out as an Olympic level anything. There are things you can do right now, today, that can help you start your own practice of self-tuning. Little tricks and tools you can leverage to build your mind/heart connection. The purpose here is not perfection. It might be counter to everything we are normally told, but the goal here is to not strive. It's not about doing, it's about being. It's about showing up for yourself, just a little bit at a time. Think of yourself as a well dressed modern day Mind Shepherd, as you kindly, lovingly notice and then usher yourself toward the thoughts, feelings, and actions you deserve. You'll be amazed at how you can start to fit this into your every day life.  Here are some things that I actually work on with my clients and do (imperfectly) personally as my own Mind Shepherd:

1. Affirmations

I have this fantastic app on my phone called Think Up that I use before I go to bed. (I'm not getting a kick back for this or anything I'll talk about here today.) There are definitely other apps you can use that facilitate mindfulness and affirmations. What I like about Think Up is that it is free and gives you a set number of affirmations. (There is a paid upgrade that I went for because I have a lot of things I want to affirm!) 

They have a list, divvied up into categories like Abundance, Body Image, Creativity. Users can also create their own. Once you've made your selections, you record yourself saying them. Then the app adds some nice music under it and plays all your affirmation as a loop. It's so powerful! When I hear myself saying "I am thankful and grateful for the abundance in my life" I tend to respond out loud and say 'heck yea, I am!" I expand. I get grounded into the statements, and get out of my worry spiral. I invite abundance. So much better than agonizing over my checkbook! A really lovely way to end the day.

2. Level Up

 

Maybe you're feeling frustrated or blue. Maybe you're just having a rotten day. Turn off that autopilot! It would have just allowed you to continue that crummy day, anyway! We are meant to be in joy! Ask yourself: What's one step up from how I currently feel? Instead of frustrated, maybe it's annoyed. Instead of sad, maybe it's discontent. These might seem like semantics, but whatever your word and feeling are, identify the next level up. Do you want to feel one step better than you are now? (probably!) Leveling up is not just for Mario Brothers anymore!

My self talk goes like this: 'I am so frustrated, but I don't like this feeling. This frustration is valuable because it's telling me something is amiss, and I honor it. Now I want to level up. One step up from frustrated could be annoyed. I can be annoyed...(tries it on in my mind)... That feels a bit better than before!

I admit, this might seem nutty to you. It might seem like a lot of woowoo kumbaya stuff. Maybe it is. But it works, friends.

The trick from here is continuing up that feelings ladder. Once you get good at identifying what one step above your current state is, you can keep going! You can do this on the bus, while you're driving, while you're sitting at your desk. It need not be a full day referendum. Just a quick check in, figure out what that level up is, and try on the new feeling! It's amazing how quickly you can turn your day around.

3. Watch your language!

The way we talk about ourselves, whether externally or in our heads, matters. I have worked, and continue to work, on changing my language. One big piece of this is thinking in the affirmative, instead of the negative. What in the heck does that mean? Well, when I ask myself what I want from any given situation or how I want to feel, I used to instinctively start out by saying/thinking 'well, I don't want x and I don't want to feel y.' It's just so easy to know what you don't want because that's how we've been programmed to think- narrow it all down by exclusion. But by thinking in the negative, I have to think about those things I don't want. Just like a child can't think about not spilling their drink without thinking about what it is to spill. So I've worked on thinking about what it is I do want, and if my sentence starts with don't, then I have to stop and reroute myself. I then think about what the positive version of xyz is. For example, if I don't want to be insecure while I'm on an interview, the opposite is that I want to be confident! See the difference? I can much easily focus on inhabiting confidence before a big interview than I can trying to embody the absence of something I don't even want. All of this takes practice but over time, it will become natural, easy, and quick! 

Language matters- love yourself with it by being your own Mind Shepherd!

How I learned to live in community

Making new friends as an adult can be difficult. For some more than others. As someone who was burned by friends years before, it took me moving to a new state, becoming a certified coach, and having a woman look into my soul to help me stop emotionally stiff-arming the people in my life.

Ugh.

In learning to be a coach, I had to first be a client. I gained much in the way of self awareness over my yearlong coaching program and had begun unraveling years of ill-serving programming. But- the whole notion of living in community was still pretty hard for me. Living in community is one of those coachy phrases, and basically boils down to this: letting others in, letting yourself be supported, being part of a tribe. Did you just recoil at that? Yea, me, too. I get it. The cool thing is that now I don't do a full body shiver upon hearing it anymore. Mostly it's just a little 'ugh' from the back of my mind that I (mostly) do a good job of ignoring. 

Credit: allhdwallpaperss.com & Pixar What I imagine that voice in my head probably looks like, thanks to Inside Out. 

Credit: allhdwallpaperss.com & Pixar

What I imagine that voice in my head probably looks like, thanks to Inside Out. 

Every good dysfunction has a backstory

When my dad finally succumbed to cancer a year after college graduation, my best friends at the time let me down when I needed them the most. To use the parlance of today's youth, they ghosted me. I was miserable, sad, and serious all the time, and looking back, I know I was equally miserable to be around. I'm not going to lie- it still stings, but I understand now how I contributed to the situation (albeit for understandable reasons). To try to continue a friendship under such strained circumstances with such deep, prolonged grief would be tough for anyone. Plus, once college ended we no longer lived together, so it was harder to maintain the friendship. We were young people trying to deal with a very huge thing and lacked the emotional maturity and communication skills to effectively deal with it. Instead, I coped by essentially becoming a hermit. I thank goodness for having fantastic coworkers at the time, because without them, I would not have had any social life whatsoever.  

Two years after my dad passed away, I finally came up for air from my depression and moved to Minnesota. Being a self-made hermit on top of moving to a new state did not do me any favors in the 'making new friends' department. I told myself that I didn't go out much because 'I'm not a bar person'. The truth was I just felt very uncertain about having real friends again. 

You see, I was very good at creating new friendships and keeping people at a convivial arm's length. Working in retail at the time, I essentially did it for a living. It was great from a customer service standpoint, but rubbish for my personal life. Yet, it was comfortable. I had convinced myself that it was working for me. My M.O. protected me from potential hurt, but was definitely not serving me big picture. I had friends, and yet I was desperately lonely. 

Delightfully awkward

You know that feeling, the one where you're squirming because you don't want to cry? It's uncomfortable. Messy. Vulnerable. Last June, I attended a fantastic three day conference called Radical Leadership. One afternoon, the facilitator reached into my soul and stayed there. A brilliant coach, she didn't let my aforementioned story simply be told to the room and then let go. No, she dug in deeper. Not only that, but she came right up to me, got on her knees, and held my hands, all the while looking at me with unbroken eye contact. With love. With the kind of look that says 'for the sake of your life I am here with you'.  She saw me, and for someone who had spent the last few years of their life avoiding that kind of intimacy, it was terribly, unnervingly uncomfortable. We hung there in suspended silence, looking at each other. Me trying to lighten things with a chuckle or a look away, and her not having any of it. Always bringing me back to her gaze. Never laughing to collude with my attempts to break the connection. She was completely and utterly present with me. This all happened in a matter of mere minutes, but I swear it was 100 years.  

Tears streamed down my face. Every part of me wanted to hide. Be smaller. Be less. Because I had taught myself to hide. Be smaller. Be less. To emotionally stiff-arm those around me. For so long, my head had been in charge, and I had to learn how to reconnect it with my heart. I had to undo the story in my head that said other people don't want to support me. That other people don't want to be around me when I'm feeling frustrated or blue. That other people don't care and would rather have less of me than more of me. That I had to do the heavy lifting alone.

Fairy dust not included

I'm not going to wrap this up in a pretty bow and tell you that from that point on I went on to have crazy close friendships. Or that I was 'fixed' and went on to live in a magical unicorn world. I still fight against that voice, but thanks to continued work I win more battles than I lose. I have great friends all along the spectrum of closeness instead of a bunch clustered in the middle left and my cat on the right. I let people in more. Emotional intimacy, though uncomfortable, is a bit easier. Easier because I had help. I gave in a little, and my tribe gave me a lot. 

I will never forget that woman looking at me. To be held that way. To be held at all... and most importantly, let it happen. 

E

Anyone can be coached if they are open to it. Not ready. Open.

I often hear things like, "I'm so busy, I cannot possibly add one more thing. Maybe in six months. Maybe next year. Maybe when we sell. Maybe after the move. Maybe after things calm down at work..."

I get it. I really do. On the one hand, I believe that when you are ready for coaching, you'll find your way to it or it'll find its way to you. And on the other, I know the power and impact coaching has, and a part of me always wants to say to these beautiful busy people: "this is exactly when you should be investing in yourself." In the busyness, things like clarity and balance get jostled around to make room for things like deadlines, overworking, and details. Imagine what those six months, or that big project would feel like if you were able to show up just a little differently. That is what I want for you. To go through the big projects or big milestones of your life and get to be your chosen version of yourself. That is what coaching does. If you wait for that 'right moment', it may never come.

I'm clearly biased, because coaching is literally my bread and butter. But I am also biased because I've been on the other side, and been the client. It changed my life. It brought me here. To you. It changed how I am in the world. So yes, I'm very biased because I want that for you, and I'd like the honor of being there as it happens.

We can start the conversation as soon as you are open.