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The Twenty Pound Wake Up Call

June 2, 2017

I didn’t imagine that I would do it. I joined a gym. A slightly fancy gym with a juice bar, Kiehl’s products and a cleaning crew working around the clock. It was the right choice but something that I did reluctantly like the purchase of my first iPhone because it required a new self-concept.

I like to think of myself as a yoga studio kind of person. As someone in resistance to forces that say look a certain way or workout for the sake of vanity. As someone self-sufficient and knowledgable about how to exercise at home or include movement as a way of life without making hefty investments in the (kettle) bells, whistles and gadgets (remember the thigh master – As Seen on TV?). It was not always this way.

Few people know that I started out in the gym as a fitness instructor and personal trainer. By age twenty, I was certified through several organizations and attended fitness conferences around the country.

I worked at elite gyms and trained Fortune 500 company managers whom I could tell to “drop and give me 20”. Actually, it was never my style to talk to people that way, though I may have joked with them.

Instead, I learned a lot about how to motivate different kinds of personalities and got a kick out being able to tell successful executives twice my age what to do. It was in the gym that I first discovered yoga when an optional training was offered for continuing education credits towards certification.

As my identity and interests shifted (and let’s face it, after my fitness level waned following the birth of my child), I shied away from sharing my background due to the embarrassment of not living up to it. Can you relate? 

In so many arenas, I see women selling themselves short because they don’t believe they have enough experience, knowledge or look the part. Or there is fear that sharing about themselves (especially regarding accomplishments) will open them up to judgment.

 

It doesn’t come naturally to write about this. However, after years of practice there is space for increased consciousness and tolerance for vulnerability. I recognize how I have let beliefs about what a personal trainer or yoga instructor should be like limit my expression.

A narrative about  what it means to be a gym vs. yoga person dominated my perspective and controlled my choices.

Self-judgments and high expectations about how I should be got in the way of accepting how really I am, revealing myself and finding what works for me now.

Like a rebellious teenager, the fear of being seen (by myself as well as others) as out of shape was exactly what prevented me from attending to it. The irony is not lost on me. It’s like being too tired to sleep.

The wake up call came when I weighed myself for the first time in six months and shockingly saw that I had gained almost twenty pounds. I have been spending an increased amount of time writing at a desk and in the car shuttling my child around. I also picked up some bad habits working from home, in addition to an almost nightly glass of wine before dinner and sometimes one with dinner.

I realized that I was replacing the stress relief that I got from yoga, hiking and dance with  what the Buddhist tradition calls False Refuges, thus trying to feed my soul with things that are temporarily satisfying but inferior and even harmful in the long run.

Sometimes, false refuges are the best that we can do in the moment and work as coping strategies. They may provide the short-term relief that we need to get something done or through an overwhelming experience.

 

Often, these strategies outlast their usefulness and can cause problems when they are used chronically. The obvious extremes are drug addiction and alcoholism but they show up in more subtle ways (such as numbing out with television, spending too much time on social media, obsessing over things…) that we can catch when we stay awake and pay attention. We might notice triggers or patterns that lead to these behaviors.

The narrative that I had around myself and fitness was created prior to having a child. In the last few years, I tried some studio classes but they were often difficult to match with my schedule and because of my background, I was picky about instructors. I tried to set aside time and space at home except it was easily interrupted by piles of laundry, the kid, the dog, the phone…

I saw that since I work a lot from home, I needed a space that I could go to, that is appealing enough that I would want to go there (sorry 24-hour Fitness) and that was conveniently located. I finally let my choice be defined by my current needs instead of the choice defining me.

My energy and how I feel in my body has already improved. I feel stronger and have broken through something mental as well as physical. There is a sense of greater freedom.

Previously, I might have waited to write about this until I lost that 20lbs. My idea of fitness is evolving and less about fitting an identity that has been constructed.

I am much more interested in brining forth aliveness (my brand of joy), vitality, self-love (metta), freedom and the rush I get from feeling strong in my body.

Instead of being guided by self-judgment, my core desired feelings lead me. If I start to compare myself to how used to be or someone else, I return to those desired feelings or the question: How can I be my best current self in this moment?

Where might you be limited by beliefs about yourself, shame or old modes of being? 

How do judgments and shoulds show up for you? 

Where are you locked into how you were in the past? 

Ever meet someone who stays focused on how strong (or successful or whatever) he or she was at 25 instead of working to be their best at 35, 45 or 65?

Few women in our culture are immune to body image issues but limiting self-concepts may can be about anything, such as how you are as a mom, employee or friend…

If you let go of how you should be, what else would be possible? 

What wakeup calls have you received? What are they telling you?

Even when you know exactly what to do, have experience doing it or believe you should be able to do it on your own, it does not mean that you always need to muscle through this alone.

 

Finding support and trying new ways, falling down or forgetting to get back up and needing help are part of the process. I do this for people. I’ve been doing it in different ways for two decades.

If you are ready to let go of beliefs that no longer serve you, find true refuge and rise to the best version of you, I am here to help. We can leave the shoulds, shame and judgments behind.

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What Your Shoes Say About You

May 26, 2017

I used to have a theory that you could learn a lot about a person and what is important to them by their shoes and their collection of books.

My library is diverse and extensive with sections organized around art, interior design, cultural history, travel guides, yoga, Buddhism and meditation, Jewish studies and spirituality, personal growth, women’s studies, collections of mythology and folk tales, parenting and child development, birth, sexuality, cooking and poetry.

Many women have equally extensive shoes collections but mine is less exciting. I can usually be found in Merrell boots or Dansko clogs. While I have always had a thing for the retro platform, you will not find me in high heels.

Why I don’t wear high heels and how we can stop being like Cinderella’s step-sisters.

I remember taking a women’s studies class and reading about the connection between the old Chinese tradition of foot-binding and high-heel shoes.

Both can cripple women and increase their dependency on a [male] protector. In contrast the protector seems strong and solid.

They take away her power to stand firm, grounded and centered in her body and inhibit the ability to run away. They create a sense that she can easily fall over or get blown away by a strong wind. Of course there are other interpretations but this description struck a chord for me.
Teaching yoga in my twenties, I observed many young women barefoot in my classes with deformed feet. One of my bosses had to have surgeries on both feet to correct the damage from wearing narrow pointy heels that conformed to the fashion for a woman in business at the time.

I, too, had spent nights dancing in shoes that pinched and created blisters just because they looked good. One day, I went to a podiatrist for the first time and was shocked to discover that I had the beginnings of bunions. This is when the bone starts to point interiorly as the foot changes shape from shoes that squeeze the toes.
It was subtle but that was all it took. I made a vow then and there to take care of my feet. Despite more limited shoe choices, I never turned back. I am happy to report that I have had no further issues with my feet.

Through our feet, we make contact with the earth. It is our foundation and literally, what we stand on. This contact affects so many other structure in the body. 

High heels shorten the calf muscles, tilt the pelvis, contribute to a displaced uterus which may be at the root of menstrual and fertility issues and can cause lower back pain, not to mention increased chances of a sprained ankle.

So, why are so many women acting like Cinderella’s stepsisters?

We force our feet into shoes that don’t fit.
We stuff ourselves into Spanx and push up bras.
We contort and conform to other people’s ideas of ourselves, measurements of success and idealized versions of how we should be.

Where in your life are you foot binding? In what ways are you living a life that doesn’t fit becayse it is too small?

Here are a some ideas for standing on your own two feet, filling your own shoes and finding alignment, vitality and flow.

1) Try Earthing – Spend time barefoot in nature for a variety of health benefits.
2) Learn Walking Meditation here with legendary Buddhist monk and teacher Thich Nhat Hahn who describes massaging the earth with every step.
3) Let Katy Bowman explain why high heels are like cigarettes here.
4) Get an Arvigo Maya Abdominal Massage to help balance your pelvis and guide your womb to optional position and function.
5) Coach with me and stop living a life that is too small, made for or by someone else.
6) Read Playing Big by Tara Mohr.

I would love to hear what resonates for you.

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How to Make Friends With Your Anger – Part 1

May 19, 2017

This needs to be said: Your anger is not negative or bad or destructive. Your anger does not need to be justified or defended. You don’t have to earn the right to be angry or receive approval about it from someone else. Your anger simply is.

 

There are a lot of reasons to be angry these days. From the way politics are playing out in our country to the increased number of people texting while driving on our shared highways, the injustices against Muslims, immigrants and the vulnerable in our society, the assault on our environment and its protections being chipped away, street violence and refugee conditions across the world…

Our anger may also be triggered by something a spouse does (or doesn’t) do, a child acting out, a colleague’s behavior towards us or social media interaction.

 

Our culture stereotypes and ridicules angry women. They are seen as bitches, irrational and unfeminine. A great example is what the media and political opponents did to shape perception about Hillary Clinton (whatever you think of her).

Additionally, there may have been someone in your life when you were young who was scary when angry. It is only natural to make adaptations in order to feel safe and believe that anger is dangerous, something to be controlled or suppressed.

 

Feeling angry does not have to mean anything about who you are. It is not a life sentence, a character distinction or anything permanent.

 

Another myth is that we can make someone angry. We can be responsive and take responsibility for our parts but nobody makes someone angry. You are not responsible for causing their feelings or what they do with them.

 

Personally, I have a hard time witnessing adults inappropriately blame their own anger on little children or threaten them with it (even when I have great compassion for the adult).

“Little Johnny, you made momma so angry by throwing your toys on the floor! It’s all your fault that I am so furious.”

“If you do that one more time, Lila, I am going to get so pissed at you!”

“If you don’t stop, I am going to tell your daddy and he will be so mad.”

No wonder we have anger issues in our culture when it is used to blame, shame, punish, coerce and control.
A reason that others may feel threatened by our anger is that it’s a call for change which can be uncomfortable or in direct opposition to what that person wants.

 

Anger is an emotion with a message. It tells us that a boundary has been crossed or needs to be protected, that something needs to be restored or that the status quo is harmful.

 

The next time you feel angry, ask yourself:
Where has there been a violation or a boundary crossed?
What needs to be protected or restored?

 

Anger may be a secondary emotion. Some psychologists and researchers categorize anger as one of the emotions that is likely layered like a protective cover over another emotion.

Most often, anger covers the more vulnerable feelings of hurt or sadness. Sadness is connected with letting go and we may need to use our anger to protect ourselves before doing the work of sadness.

 

Tears can accompany sadness. We know that they help carry away stress hormones for a cathartic effect. Anger seeks to use those stress hormones for action and change.

 

When you feel angry, especially if you notice an attachment to being right or justification of your perspective, try sensing if there is a deeper hurt or sadness beneath it or something more vulnerable that seeks being felt.

 

Beware of displaced anger. Common discomfort with anger has resulted in a lot of displaced anger. Not only is it not your job to carry someone else’s anger or take the blame for it (or likewise), but the inability to recognize what we are really angry about and feelings of helplessness can result in taking it out elsewhere as impatience, hypersensitivity, reactivity and in extreme circumstances as violence. This can be completely unconscious.

 

In situations where someone may not feel comfortable or safe expressing their needs, say to a boss, client or authority figure, they might over-react at home to a child running around or making a mess, snap at a partner or friend for being unsupportive or demonstrate aggression in the form of road rage.
Anger is rooted in love and care. While it’s true that reactivity and anger can be activated by stress, vulnerability and unmet needs in the form of neglect, the pure feeling is in relation to what we hold dear. Anger arises out of what we love or care about, our deepest needs and desires.

 

Either when you begin to feel angry or when you are not angry, identify what you love and care most about, what is important or at stake, your big why, what you hold sacred and defensible. This is your righteous anger from which healing and wholeness can be restored.

 

Consider this equation:
Righteous Anger + Fierce Love = Radical Action/Social Change/Transformation

 

In Part II of this series, I will share practical tools for becoming friends with your anger and techniques for damage control.

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Five Lessons For An Enduring Relationship (aka my secret sauce)

May 12, 2017

We are relational creatures. So much of our satisfaction and fulfillment are related to the quality of our relationships.

There are many reasons that we seek out mates, but it seems that most of us are wired for it. Being in a couple can be one of the most rewarding and difficult experiences. The high divorce rate speaks to the challenges.

When I hear about couples who have been together a long time, I like to ask them what they have learned and for the secret sauce that makes it all work.

I’ve have been with my husband for almost fifteen years. We are celebrating our thirteenth wedding anniversary this month.

It has not been all rainbows and unicorns. Or roses and chocolates for that matter. However, I like to think that we have learned some things in our time together and have come up with our own recipe to keep things salty, spicy, sweet and umami.

When a writer/blogger I follow asked for advice as he was preparing for his nuptials, this is what I wrote.

My relationship is not always happy and I certainly am not gaga all of the time but life does not need to resemble a romance novel or Fifty Shades of Gray. I will choose real love again and again. I think part of enduring is that you weather and work through the hard times together. You build up fondness and appreciation to remember and draw on, to keep you going when you feel disconnected, annoyed or no longer like the sound of your partner’s chewing. And then you savor the good times. You appreciate them and remember to see the goodness in your partner.

The top five lessons I learned (aka my secret sauce):

  • Marriage and relationship are verbs in disguise. You are either tending or neglecting what you have. There is no neutral or doing nothing. You are moving away or towards each other at any one time.
  • Listening does not have to mean agreeing. And certainly not fixing. Listening is just listening and it’s key.
  • It is absolutely necessary to protect the sacred. You can replace the word sacred with respect. Whatever you call it, this represents a bottom line that does not get crossed. This provides safety for two people to be themselves and be together. Learning how to hold something sacred above all else is humbling and instructive. I believe it is a necessary ingredient in self-realization and healthy couplehood.
  • My husband and I have had a rule that has rarely been crossed of honoring the highest standard that either one of us holds or going with the person who feels most strongly about the issue or decision. This brings trust to our relationship and has enabled us to travel the world, raise a child together, make important decisions, keep cheetos out of the house, navigate in-laws and reconnect during difficult times. It answers what social neuroscientist Mark Brady calls the Big Brain Question “Will you be there for me when I need you?” with a resounding YES.
  • Lastly, live by this: love and connection is more important that being right. When conflict is arising, ask yourselves if you would rather be close or right. The answer is usually CLOSE.

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Are you giving your power away?

April 7, 2017

A friend and I were recently at a local market buying a couple of last minute ingredients for a dinner we were cooking together. (I find cooking together even more pleasurable than sharing a meal – a way to increase hygge). After checkout, we bumped into a woman my friend knows who happened to be in the last month of her pregnancy.

My friend introduced me as an experienced and knowledgable doula. This very nice woman half apologized, saying that she wanted a doula but her partner was against it. Thus, they weren’t hiring one.

Being who I am and sensing that this woman was open, I responded that I had no intention of convincing her of anything and asked, “Since you are the one giving birth, how is that for you?”

She answered that it was disappointing because she imagines how helpful that support could be but that her relationship was complicated and challenging enough. She didn’t want to rock the boat any further and the best she could do is to respect the desires of her partner.

My heart breaks a little to see smart, capable and kind women feeling the need to give over their power to keep the peace, people please and avoid confrontation.

In the same week, two other women came to me expressing fear of asking for what they want because it went against what someone else wanted for them, be it a careprovider, adult parent or partner. The fear of alienating or aggravating someone else was stronger than their own desires.

If these kinds of stories touch you, notice what arises:
How would you want to respond? What would you say or do?
Do you see something of yourself in these women?
Are there times when you give over your power to appease someone else or avoid confrontation? 

Giving power away seems to be common among women, especially around times of vulnerability such as impending motherhood.

Whether you learned early in life to give your power away or it is situational and relates to a specific relationship, it is most likely connected to the need to feel safe, accepted and loved. The female brain interprets threat to a relationship as a threat to survival. Women are more likely to have a stress reaction that is triggered more easily than the fight or flight response and has been identified as tend and befriend.

Through our connections with other people, we establish a sense of safety and protection.

I’ve devoted myself to learning and developing tools to help women like the one from the grocery store to live from their own truths while experiencing deeper relationships and staying connected to what’s important to them.

Being of help has little to do with trying to fix the situation or defending a point a view or stereotypical representations of angry feminism. It’s about opening the heart of compassion and understanding, bringing awareness and inquiry, then expanding our perspective to include new possibilities.

Without compassion for our own reactions, for the choices a woman is making, for the role of the person she is giving her power to, we can not come close to the truth or truly serve.

Compassion is an anchor that allows us to create the spaciousness in which consciousness and change is possible, regardless of the outcome. We gain perspective and see what is really possible. Our desires, motivations and good intentions become compasses.

There is usually a very good reason when someone seems to be giving their power away. It’s easy to judge or want to change the pattern right away. Most women can sense when someone has an agenda, wants to fix or change them. It usually makes the situation worse. The antidote starts with feeling truly seen and accepted.

How can you bring more compassion to yourself and others in situations where power is being given away?
What’s your anchor?
What motivations or good intentions are present?
How can you see the situation without making anyone wrong (including yourself)? 

I would love to hear from you whether you are someone who finds yourself giving your power away or if you are someone who supports other women and sees this pattern playing out. How was this helpful? How might you address a situation like the one that I described above?

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