Dreaming as Self-care

June 13, 2016

During my final months of college I read What Color’s Your  Parachute?  In case you’re not familiar with this classic it’s a subtitled “A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers.”

That book changed my life. It gave me permission to find work that fit my values, my interests, and my skills. Up until then I knew I wanted to be a social worker and help others. I knew I liked working with kids, but beyond that I didn’t have many specifics.

Wishlist

When I finished the book I had a long wishlist for my dream job. Here’s part of my list:

  • Time in nature, including hiking
  • Opportunity to do crafts
  • Able to dress casually
  • Not a 9-5 job
  • Working with kids
  • Non-traditional program
  • Opportunity to grow
  • Chance to travel
  • Vacation time
  • Place where my skills of teaching and counseling would be helpful

Let Your Dream Find You

Now with the list I had clarity Unfortunately I didn’t have any job prospects or any ideas of how to find my dream job. But clarity, focus on what I wanted, and trust paid off. (And maybe a healthy dose of 20-something naivety didn’t hurt.) Through a series of serendipities my dream job found me.

I had worked at a summer Girl Scout residence camp between my junior and senior years of college. I loved working with the kids and planned on returning for one more summer after graduation. M

 

y parents, who had been supporting me during college, strongly suggested I get on with a “real job” hunt instead. I agr

 

eed.

 

 

One morning in the late spring I woke up from a dream that told me I needed to work at camp again. I don’t have any memory of the dream, but I remember that I “knew” I must return to that summer job. I called the camp director to tell her I had decided to work at camp. I knew I had missed the deadline for signing my contract. Would a position still be available? Turns out she thought I HAD decided to work at camp and already

 

had me on her list. Yeah!

That summer, in between s’mores, hiking, and swimming, I sent off resumes for all the job listings my mom sent me. I scoured the want ads in alternative magazines like Mother Earth News and applied for jobs that sounded like they might match my wishlist. But with only a few weeks of summer left I hadn’t lined up any job interviews.

One day the camp director invited me to ride with her to the Girl Scout council office about 30-minutes away. They had offered her a temporary job as director with a day camp for a new program. She wasn’t interested, but thought I should apply. So I put on my cleanest jeans and headed to Bloomington with her.

That position had been filled, but they hired me on the spot as a counselor for a three-week stint with the day camp for that new program. I was glad to have a job, even if it was temporary and I didn’t know where I’d stay.

After returning to the resident camp I told my friend and tent mate, Thumper (we all had camp names) and she invited me to housesit for her and her boyfriend Jim as they headed out of town. They’d be gone a week, but I could stay for the three weeks.

That temporary position led to a full-time position as a youthworker/trainer with that new program. It was the start of my coaching and truly my dream job. It ticked every box on my wishlist and then some.

How Do You Dream?

Some of my clients automatically bypass the dreaming phase. You might relate if you’ve ever gotten in trouble for daydreaming. Or if you’ve taken a risk going after your dreams only to be disappointed. Who wants to risk that again?

Maybe you’re a detail person who hasn’t learned how to go big with your vision. (Hint: your vision is made of details.) Or you’re afraid of getting caught in airy, fairy, fantasyland, never taking action toward your dream.

Like some of my clients you might be choosing the known, afraid to admit what you REALLY want. Or maybe you’re not even sure what you want.

Allowing yourself to dream does have risk. You could get your hopes up and be disappointed. But by going for what is safe and known, you risk not living your dream.

Dream-mode

Staying in “dream-mode” all the time won’t get you a free ride. When you step onto the path of your dreams it’s helpful to pack some reality to help you make plans, to help you take action. I had to go to the interview when it was offered. I had to take a temporary job that felt right. There’s a time and place for both dream and “reality.” If you’ve been all action or living someone else’s dream then you’re overdo for some “dream time.” Here are a few ideas to get you going.

How to dream

  1. Pretend you’re a kid. Remember lying on your back under the clouds? Let your mind wander as you make up an “imaginary” tale about your life. What would super hero, super-model, or super-confident you do? What would you ask the genie in the bottle for? Which vision gets you excited? Which one seems to have a life of its own?
  2. Notice bits of other people’s lives that you’d love to copy. And yes, copying is allowed. Do you envy a friend who travels to exotic locations? Or melt when you see the woman down the street with her 3 kids? Are you in awe of your friend who’s set up her business so she only works 3 days a week?
    Do find yourself wondering how a friend published a book or landed a new job? Remember you don’t have to take their whole picture into your vision. The woman who travels might seem exhausted. You can incorporate the travel and leave the exhaustion out.
  3. Make your vision more tangible and present by recording it. Depending on your tastes and talents you might want to keep notes in a journal, paint a picture, or collage a dream board. Having a touchstone helps keep that dream alive as you take action.
  4. Hire a coach. I’m personally a fan of this one. : ) Hiring a coach provides wings to this process. A coach will hear things in what you say that you might not pick up on. A coach can lead you through the process guiding you when you get stuck and then helping you take that dream into action. Sometimes the other people in your life, like your partner or kids, have a vested interest in you staying the same. A coach can be a cheerleader for exploring change in your life when those around you feel unsure about that change.

When I hear someone say I’ve always wanted to… my ears perk up. If you think there might be a “dream” in you then you take the time to explore it. I believe that acknowledging and going for your dreams IS an overlooked and important piece of self-care. That’s gold on the path to a big life of joy.

Share a bit of your dream here.

Measuring your Goals

April 13, 2016
Measuring tape

When working with my coaching clients one of the first things we do is to look at their values. When we’re finished with the process they’re often surprised by Measuring tapewhat their list ends up being.

I work with people who are pretty self-aware. It’s not like they haven’t thought about what’s important to them. They have. But few of them have peered so closely at their values. Those top values end up being the yardstick they use to make decisions as they move closer to their goals.

Values in Action: 59 Shades of Gray

I recently received a friend request from someone on Facebook who then proceeded to try and sell me cosmetics for reversing aging. At 59 I probably looked like a good candidate.

But I wasn’t a good match. I may have gray hair, but my values weren’t aligned with the company she represented. I do want to look healthy and vital. But I’m not willing to use a bunch of potentially harmful chemicals on my skin or hair in order to try and appear younger.

For me optimal health has a high value. I’m willing to sacrifice other things to live that value. I’m willing to not dye my hair and am willing to potentially look older than my peers who do dye theirs. I’m willing to forgo the latest skin care regime because the products contain mineral oil (or PEG 4 Laurate, Propylparaben, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate…) I’m not perfect in my quest for a high level of wellness, but it is a daily part of my life.

Are We Having Fun Yet?

One of my client’s “yardsticks” has fun at the top of her list. Any time she starts to resist something she asks herself if that something is fun. If it doesn’t sound fun to her we look at how she can shift it.

For example, going to the gym didn’t sound like fun to her. In fact it sounded like torture. But dancing on the deck gives her a thrill. Now her exercise includes deck dancing, something that she’s willing to do on a regular basis.

Another client values learning. Her job, a “good job” with benefits and stability feels like torture to her. A truly “good job” for her is one where learning is integrated, even rewarded.

What Do You Value?

How would your choices (and therefore your life) be different if you used a values “yardstick?” Your first step is to know what your values are. You can make a list on your own, but having a guide or coach enhances the process. That’s because we swim in our own sea. Having someone swim alongside you pointing out that you are, after all, swimming in water gives you a different (and more complete) perspective.

I’d love to know your top value or values. Would you be willing to post them here?

And if you’d like a “values guide” maybe it’s time for coaching. You can schedule a free consultation here.

labyrinth

I had finished a swim and was standing in the locker room when I felt a familiar twinge in my back. “Oh no. The pain is coming back.” It was the early 90’s and I had injured my back while finishing up massage school. My back would feel better after treatments like chiropractic care and massage. But a year after the injury the pain would still return. I felt like I would never be back to normal.

While that familiar twinge had returned many times, this time was different. I realized that what I was feeling was the tightening of a muscle, not pain. I breathed and focused on relaxing. The twinge left and the pain did not reappear! I realized my fear about the pain had been causing my muscles to tighten hence restricting the blood flow and ultimately causing more pain. You mean I could control this? Wow.

I wasn’t new to yoga, but this was awareness was new.

I’d dabbled in yoga since the 70’s. Regular yoga became a part of my routine after other treatments weren’t healing my injury. I’d started a consistent practice to help my body. I hadn’t counted on the“side effects” of yoga including increased awareness.

labyrinth

Your Go-to System

Awareness is a powerful tool. What do you notice right now? Your achy neck? Your breathing? A distracting thought? A feeling of happiness?

Most of us have a go-to system that we check in with WHEN we’re being mindful. We are not mindful all of the time, nor do we want to try for that state. Our habits and patterns serve us well by freeing up focus and energy. For example, I don’t have to think about how to type. I’ve done it enough that the neural pathways take over and I can focus on what I’m writing instead.

As you develop your mindfulness skills through meditation, yoga, chi kung, art, hiking, gardening, knitting, etc. you usually have a system you go to first. You notice your body. You pay attention to your breath. It’s gives you a starting point. Noticing everything at once would be too hard.

As you build your mindfulness muscles you can start to access more information. If you’re new to the gym a trainer will introduce you to a few pieces of equipment. You don’t need to lift every weight, try every machine. Over time you build your repertoire. It’s the same with mindfulness.

You are Connected.

Your body, mind, spirit, energy, and emotions are connected. Think a happy thought and you will feel differently. Your body will shift to meet your emotion. But sometimes the message from the different levels of your wholeness will conflict.

Your body aches from too many hours of sitting in front of the computer. So you commit to prying your butt from your chair on a daily basis and hitting the gym. Great plan, right?

While your body might be screaming for movement your emotional body might be singing a different song. Maybe you’ve recently had a loss and your emotional body wants nothing more than to sit in that chair and eat a daily pint of Hagen-Dazs.™

If you listen to your physical body and ignore the call of your emotions you will end up sabotaging your efforts at the gym. And the bummer is that you’ll probablyfeel even worse because you didn’t succeed.

What’s a Whole Person to Do?

  1. Acknowledge and celebrate whatever awareness/mindfulness practice you do have. When I say “practice” I’m not referring to a formal practice. Every time you pay attention to some part of you you’re practicing mindfulness. To be mindful you don’t need to travel to India and sit at the feet of a guru.
  1. Add another layer. You notice your body is tense. Check in with your breathing. What do you find? When you get comfortable with that layer, add another. What is your mind focusing on?Eventually you’ll be able to check-in with a wide range of awareness. It’s like being a painter and starting with only red, yellow, and blue in your paint set. Over time you add burnt sienna, orchid, sea foam green… And you get different results with a bigger tool kit.
  1. Honor the discrepancies. Find creative ways to honor the different messages you get. How can you nurture your grieving heart while getting your butt out of that chair?
  1. Look for themes. When I coach clients we sometimes do an exercise where they listen to a number of different levels. The cool thing is that there are always themes. Those themes help direct the course of your life. Those themes can lead you to a path that will be supported by yourwhole team.

So what’s your go-to mindfulness system? Are you noticing any themes? Would love to hear your wisdom.

stressed woman

 

Overwhelm. It’s a word I hear a lot from clients and potential clients. Maybe you’ve experienced overwhelm at some point. That sense of having what feels like an impossible number of tasks on your to-do list. Or feeling like something too big to handle, too painful to live with entered your life.

When you experience overwhelm your nervous system gets triggered. Your muscles tighten. Your blood pressure amps up. You start to feel unsafe, perhaps a little irritable. You might even shut down.And with all of that you become less productive and more inefficient.

Before Strategy and Ohming

I’ve been in overwhelm and I know the last thing you want to do is take a break to hash over the situation. After all, you have a pile of stuff with your name on it and, tick tock, time keeps moving. In fact your adrenal glands, detecting danger, have shot out a nice dose of chemicals to help keep you moving.

Before you start to solve the problem of overwhelm, before you decide that yes, meditation is your ticket to calm or that you really should stop procrastinating, you have to decide IF your overwhelm is a problem. 

What if the sensations you’re feeling are actually a blessing? What if overwhelm is really your inner wisdom come calling?

What Would the Dalai Lama Do?

I remember having a quick conversation back in the mid-90’s with one of the counselors at the wellness center at which I worked. The conversation was quick because that’s all I had time for. I was busy, yes, overwhelmed with all that was on my plate.

I was a massage therapist with a full time busy practice, teaching yoga plus an occasional non-yoga class. And I was living life, taking care of a home, navigating a new relationship, etc. This counselor told me a story about the Dalai Lama. I don’t know if it’s true, but it was exactly what I needed to hear.

The story went like this. The Dali Lama was being advised of his schedule for the day, which was especially full. The advisor suggested maybe His Holiness should shorten his meditation time. The Dali Lama, being extra wise and lama like, said he would instead increase his mediation time.

I heard the message and started to look at my reasons for cutting back self-care to finish the “really important and necessary” stuff on my to-do list.

That story stuck with me. Now when I get tempted to do more or to shorten my workout or meditation time I do my best to listen to the message of my overwhelm rather than pushing through it to more action.

Signposts

I don’t think overwhelm is a bad thing. Nor do I think it is always about procrastination or being disorganized or inefficient. In fact, I think it is a blessing (even though it can raise your blood pressure and keep you awake at night.)

Being in overwhelm tells you that something is off. It’s worth pausing and making space to discover what underlies your particular brand of overwhelm.

Here are a few possible nuggets I find lurking in my own and my clients’ overwhelm.

  • Self-esteem issues
  • People pleasing
  • Lack of boundaries
  • Perfectionism
  • Control issues
  • Fear
  • Money issues
  • Distraction from what’s really important
  • Not enough information

Of course coaching is one option to getting your arms around overwhelm. So is a retreat. But there are lots of ways to handle overwhelm. I’d love to know your go-to solutions.

Down with Self-loathing!

August 6, 2015

I grew up chubby and have often seen “fat” when I looked in the mirror, even when the scales said differently. Only in recent years have I begun to accept, even like my body.

No wonder I love the trend toward accepting one’s body— curvy hips, belly rolls, the slope of one’s nose, cellulite, freckles… I applaud the women who say,“I’m not covering up these jiggly thighs for your pleasure. I will wear skintight yoga pants if I choose. I will shake these hips and let my flesh spill out in celebration.”

Self love=Self care

Self-love is healthier than the self-loathing that has been the norm. For years I’ve listened to females from pre-pubescent to elderly “dis” their bodies. Too short, too skinny, ugly knees, and the most prevalent, “too fat.” Along with scores of “sisters” I’ve looked in the mirror and asked the proverbial question, “Does this make me look fat?”

All that self-loathing takes a toll. It takes time and energy, which could be spent doing something you love—painting, hiking, snuggling, reading, growing a business… But instead that time is spent putting yourself down or worrying about how your butt looks.

Plus there’s the emotional and energetic toll. Your body, mind, and spirit register that mean spirited talk. And that registering, even for a comment that might seem small and insignificant, takes a toll. It’s a punch in the gut. A kick to the heart.

It’s self-abuse. So you can see why I’m heartened to hear and see the trend in the opposite direction.

I believe in self-love.

For years we’ve been “fed” images by the media of thin, too thin, and photoshopped lovelies. Many of us received the message loud and clear that we too should look just like the women in the ads. And we don’t.

As the pendulum swings to the other side we’re getting messages that it’s acceptable, maybe even preferable to be as Meghan Trainor says in her popular song, “all about that bass.” If you’ve worked long and hard to get your body to look like Kate Moss, only to feel like a failure, you’re probably ready to embrace the current trend to love every bit of you. Love away.

BUT…

Here’s my concern.

I think for some self-acceptance has come to mean “I can eat a bag of Doritos because I love myself and I’m not punishing myself any longer. Rather than watching what I eat I’m learning to love all of me.”

True that punishing yourself is not self-love. Lose the punishment. Yes to loving all of you. But feeding your body foods that cause you to be obese, to be unwell, to not feel good, or have energy is NOT self-love. No matter what you look like.

I’m sure you’ve heard about the well-documented risks of making poor diet choices and being overweight. Stroke, heart attack, cancer, osteoarthritis, mobility issues, sleep apnea, high blood pressure, reproductive concerns, gallbladder problems, back pain… Self-love does not include behaviors that put you at risk for these kinds of issues.

Pendulum dilemma

In my perfect world:

  • We all learn to accept, even cherish our precious bodies. They are a miracle. (Isn’t it amazing that your body can take a peach or a Big Mac and turn them into energy?)
  • We all make choices that support, honor, and grow the miracles that we walk around in. I’m talking about that body of yours. You know, the one that feels love, can drive a stick shift, and fills out government forms. Okay, so maybe you never learned to drive a stick shift. Still you’re amazing and deserve to be treated that way.

So maybe you’ve ridden the pendulum to one side: “I need to wear a size 2 or my life is over” or the other “My curves are beautiful so I don’t need to worry about what I eat ever again.” Seek your perfect balance point. That point will let you, on most days, love the body you have. And because you love that body you treat it accordingly, discovering what it loves, what nurtures it, what heals it.

I hear some of you saying, “But my body loves sour cream and onion potato chips.” You might love the taste of those chips. (I do too.) But I’m asking you to go deeper. How do you feel when you eat them? How do you sleep? How easy is it to move? How much energy do you have for the things that you really want to do?

I find that I don’t feel or look as amazing if I eat lots of chips and sugar. I think more clearly without them in my world. I sleep better. I stay healthier. And all of those things help me live the life of my dreams.

My goal is to make a self-loving choice with food more often than not. (If you see me in line at my favorite health food store with a pint of Luna & Larry’s Mint Galactica Coconut Bliss and a spoon you might not want to take that moment to suggest that I make a more loving choice.) But stalk me at my favorite health food store and you’ll find my cart is usually filled with healthy, non-sugar, non-chip foods.

But not always. I’m not saying be perfect. I’m saying be loving. To your cells. To your heart. To your head.

The pendulum swings. Riding it to the middle can be challenging. Having the support of a coach can make a world of difference. Coaching can help you find a place where you feel like you’re making choices rather than being driven by your cravings, your habits, or your emotions. You can find a place where you accept yourself AND learn to make healthy choices your way.

What do you think? Are you on one side of the pendulum? What are your ideas about finding and managing your balance point? I’d love it if you’d share them here. Might help me or someone else on one of those less than balanced days.

 

Ready to Get Aligned & Thrive?

Be in the know. Articles, videos, upcoming events...