Mindfulness

Alone With My Thoughts

Free Retreat Planner Inside. Alone With my Thoughts: Navigating unproductive thought loops.

This week’s Embracing Intensity Podcast guest, Brittani Nelson, shares a mutual history of being a single mom and starting a business and a relationship around the same time. Unlike me though, she didn’t skip a beat in her business like I did when I took a break from my business as I got to know my now husband.

When I asked how she managed it all, she talked about the importance of self-care and balancing time with family. Another major tool for her has been harnessing the power of reflection and learning from each adventure.

I had a wonderful opportunity for reflection this week. In my group coaching call this weekend, we talked about our tendency to keep busy partly to avoid being alone with our thoughts. I particularly related to this habit when I was a single mom and went out with friends almost every night I didn’t have the boy. I felt very much like this guy:

Nowadays since I got married and moved to the country, I find myself much more of a home body and make a lot more time for self-reflection.

This week, however, I found myself caught in an unproductive thought loop.

I got a message on Twitter from someone who remembered me from college. He was from another dorm and I didn’t remember him at first. His dorm was the more quirky, hippy type dorm in my mind, and I always thought that I might have fit better there than I did in the freshman dorm I was in.

This thought sent me down a rabbit hole of “what if” thoughts – What if I lived in that dorm instead? I probably would not have ended up in the dysfunctional living situation my sophomore year that contributed to my body shutting down that year, which ultimately caused me to drop out of that college.

I realized that dropping out of that college was my single biggest regret in life. I tried to get back in right away but they wouldn’t let me back because my grades had dropped. I felt like I had deprived myself of half of my college experience because I finished off at a commuter school.

That said, I knew logically that if I hadn’t dropped out of that school, I would not have the life I have today. I would not have run into my son’s father at the commuter school. We would not have moved up to the Portland area, and my family would not have followed me up here. I would not have met my husband or my awesome friends here, and I would not be living out in the beautiful wilderness of the PNW.

I could know all of these things at an intellectual level, but I couldn’t help rolling around in my mind the thoughts of “what if.” For me, this looked like knots in my stomach and mind wandering when I should be working.

I stopped for a moment and thought, “I know this is not in anyway logical – what if I just let myself feel grief for a moment about the decisions that I made?” I took some time to just feel sad. Really accept that there doesn’t need to be a logical reason for it to be valid.

Sometimes you just need to stop thinking and let yourself feel.

Once I gave myself permission to feel it, it passed. At lunch I found that this Twitter friend had posted a picture of us from College (at a drag party where I had dressed half the men in my dorm with my thrift store finds), and I remembered exactly who he was. It was fun to reconnect, and I no longer felt that melancholy of “what if”  because I let myself grieve and move on.

Not to say that I will never feel that way again, but now if I feel stuck on a repetitive thought loop I will look at the heart of where it’s coming from and just let myself feel instead of trying to talk myself out of it. 

To help you take time out to connect with your inner thoughts, I created this free retreat planner!  It includes information on: How to prepare for your retreat in the way that’s best for you; Simple, accessible, and straightforward practices to deepen your experience; A template planner;  A guide to using essential oils to enhance and deepen your healing experience; A recommended reading list; and more!

Puppy Power!

Puppy Power: Lessons Learned From Our New Pup

Lessons learned from our new pup

There was a time when your passion and drive filled you with energy! Your enthusiasm was contagious and you drew people in toward your cause. You approached the world with wonder and curiosity which left you open to any possibility.

But now you are getting tired. The realities of life sometimes get you down and you forget how playful life can really be. You’ve been there, done that and wonder what’s the point. At the rate you’re going you are at risk of burning out.

Watching our new puppy meet my cranky old 9 year old poodle brings to mind lessons we can all learn from an 8 week old pup:

Lessons Learned From Our New Pup

Reach out. When we got our new pup, the lady came out with him, he sniffed me then leaned toward me and reached out with his paws for me to take him. From that moment, I was putty in his hands.

I find in my own life, the warmer I am with others, the more receptive they are toward what I have to say.

Know your audience. Even after hours in the car, he greeted my cousin eagerly when we got home, and when she set him down, he climbed right into her boyfriend’s lap. The old dog however, has been much slower to warm. With him, he has taken his time getting to know him.

Some people are slower to warm than others. If your instincts say they are worth connecting with, let them know you are there for them without pushing too hard.

Know when to persist. When his first attempts to play with the little old man were met with small growls, he backed away. The next day, however, he continued to try to connect. He read his signals, and adjusted his own body language to be less threatening. He might not get the spritely playmate he’d like, but he will likely gain a pack mate.

Lessons learned from my new pup

Some people might jump on board with you at first meeting and others may take more time to develop a relationship with. If you know it’s worth pursuing, little gestures over time can lead to deep and lasting connections.

Communicate your needs. Puppies don’t know how to pretend they are fine when basic needs aren’t being met. If they are hungry, they will let you know. If they are lonely, they will come to you. If they want to play, they will do their very best to get you to play.

As adult humans, we become well versed in pretending everything is fine. If we don’t communicate our needs though, no one can help us meet them. And if we don’t meet our own needs, we will quickly burn out.

Play hard rest hard. When the pup plays, he plays hard. He throws himself into the moment. When he’s ready to rest though, he’s not afraid to pass out on the floor.

Lessons learned from my new pup

Sometimes we get so caught up in our work or cause, we forget to both play and rest. Both of these are essential to keep our fire alive!

Maintain your wonder and curiosity. Everything is new to a puppy. They explore the world with fresh eyes and a sense of wonder.

Isn’t this the key to mindfulness? When we think we know all of the answers, we close off the options that don’t fit this view. Keep yourself open to possibility and you never know what will come your way!

Are you starting to lose the fire that used to keep you going?

There is another way! By working with your innate nature, and embracing new perspectives, you can reignite the fire that got you started, enjoy feeling inspiration and passion every day and bring back your inner puppy!

This month I’m offering five free Bring Back Your Puppy Power! calls.

By the end of this 60-minute session, you will leave with:

  • A renewed sense of purpose, to harness more energy and inspiration everyday
  • Insight about what is really draining, depleting, and overwhelming you (it might not be what you think)
  • A new perspective about how to keep the fire of your passion and creativity burning, in spite of the challenges

Contact me here to reserve your spot now!

Puppy Power: Lessons Learned From Our New Pup

Spring Has Sprung!

Spring has Sprung!

Despite some amazing things that have happened to me in the last few months including getting married to an awesome partner and acquiring Quinn Mountain Retreat, this has been a challenging winter for me.

My fatigue and headaches had been worse than they had been in years and I took on extra emotionally draining work at my day job. I usually don't get hit hard by colds or flus, but a few weeks ago I was knocked out for two weeks from the flu.

I had occasional dreams and visions of how I could use the retreat to build community and offer transformational experiences, but for the most part my intellectual excitability slowed down to a lull. I hadn't realized until my house sold and we could start investing financially in the business how much feeling stuck had got me down. I wasn't moving forward toward my purpose and I was taking on responsibilities that did not bring me joy.

This got me thinking that I need to revisit my own self care power toolkit to include things that I can see in hindsight would have helped me while I was going through it. Having a plan for these times is so helpful because when you are in the moment it is difficult to get the perspective you need to pull yourself out.

Here are some things I will try to remember the next time I feel off course:

Take a look at your days. How are you spending your time? Are you doing more things that are energizing or more things that are draining. Energizing activities activate our courage, spirit of play, self-care, sense of power and encourage mindfulness in the moment.

Remember your purpose. Even if you can't spend the majority of your time moving forward on your goals, take some time each week, or even better each day, to visualize where you would like to be. It is helpful if you can plan ahead and find short activities that can move you toward your goal so you have some thing to refer to when you have bits of spare time here and there instead of getting stuck browsing Facebook or other electronic distractions.

Stay connected with your food. When things got busy for me and my energy got low, it was super easy to fall back on letting my spouse do most of the cooking and eat the same meals in a small rotation. What I realized though is that I had completely disconnected from my food. When I was planning meals and getting creative then the food I ate was more nourishing not just for my body but for me emotionally. Finding the joy in food again instead of seeing it as a chore has helped tremendously!

Move. Even a little. It's tempting to just crash, but this will just make the fatigue worse. Find something you enjoy doing. You don't have to go to the gym and push yourself to do things you don't like. Have a dance party with your kids - or just break out the moves by yourself, go for a walk, find yoga videos, one of these days I want to learn the art of poi dancing because it's just kinda cool.

Create. It doesn't have to be a masterpiece and you don't even have to share it with anything, but creating something gets the juices flowing. When you are inspired, other things in your life are more inspiring. I find that when my brain is going imagining all the things I want to do in the future, I am often more productive in the menial things I need to do in my job as well.

What are some things that you can fall back on when you are feeling stuck?

Spring has Sprung!

You CAN Make a Difference

You CAN Make a Difference: 10 ways to make a difference

When you feel things intensely, it is easy to be an idealist and even easier to get burned out or disillusioned when reality hits hard.

You start out with a mission and little by little that mission starts to slip away when the reality of the system, or entrepreneurship or whatever framework you are using to further your cause keeps putting roadblocks in your path.

I had such a moment a couple of weeks ago when I realized I was starting to become exactly what I entered in education to avoid. You see, when I was in college I was tested for learning disabilities and because all they looked at was an arbitrary state criteria, which I didn't fit, I was asked why I even bothered to get tested. What they didn't acknowledge as a roadblock was that my auditory processing was significantly below my visual processing - meaning I really sucked at taking in what I heard and read (unless it was in the form of meaningful conversation).

I became a school psychologist because I wanted to help students understand themselves better, regardless of whether they met some arbitrary state qualification. Recently though, I started to find myself slipping into black and white thinking, which is the enemy of effective problem solving.

So this got me thinking of how I've moved myself over the years to create real positive change within a set structure.

Reconnect with your why. You probably didn't get involved with this cause to jump through the hoops of paperwork, red tape and/or marketing. You had a purpose or you wouldn't have signed on. Reexamine that purpose, and look for new ways to move toward that goal.

Find common ground. Just as you had your reasons, the people you share space with have their own motivations too. I have always gotten through in this field with the assumption that everyone in the room wants what's best, but they may have different approaches or ideas of how to reach that. There's a great quote from Olivia Fox Cabana in The Charisma Myth, "In most situations, we don't know for certain what motivates a person's actions. So we might as well choose the explanation that is most helpful to us." In helping fields, such as education, I generally find the most favorable answer to be true. When we recognize our common goal, then we can come to appreciate their different approaches.

Think outside the box. Boxes can be useful for giving us a framework with which to organize our world, but they are also often arbitrary. If we are not careful they can encourage black and white all or nothing thinking. This stunts our natural creative problem solving.

Appreciate the good. It's there really! Even if you are currently feeling overwhelmed with what's wrong in the world, there is so much to celebrate! Find it and appreciate it - out loud so that others can hear. What we focus our energy on is what we start to see more of. When I worked at a school for children with severe behavioral needs, they had a strict policy of using 3-4 positive statements to every negative one. As both an employee and a colleague, I saw how powerful this is for adults as well as children.

Find the humor. Changing the world for the better is heavy stuff. When we can laugh at ourselves or our situation, it makes the whole process more fun!

Connect. Find others you can connect with on a deeper level. Even one or two people who share or understand your cause. Life is much easier when you don't have to go it alone.

Let go. If it's not serving you let it go. Let go of those expectations of perfection and how things "should be" and accept things as they are. Only then can we move forward and shift things in the positive direction of what "could be."

Change your story. Events may trigger thoughts, our thoughts may trigger feelings and our thoughts and feelings may trigger actions and our actions will trigger an outcome. We may not be able to control the events, but we can control our thoughts and actions.

Put your own oxygen mask on first. If you constantly put the needs of others before your own, eventually you will burn out. Take a look at your typical day and look at what activities nourish you and what activities deplete you. If you find more depleting, which is often the case, find ways to add more nourishing activities back into your life. Take small breaks to be mindful of your body and surroundings, take a walk, move, meditate, get out in nature. Whatever it is that makes you feel most alive. Even 5 minutes will do a world of good.

And remember, what you do is important! You have a heart for making positive change. You already are making a difference, and have been for years. Just please, be sure to take care of yourself in the process so you can keep on being your awesome self!

What has helped you move from disillusionment back into hope?

You CAN Make a Difference: 10 ways to make a difference

A Quiet Place

A Quiet Place

For years I've been meaning to take a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction class. My aunt, who teaches it in California had offered to let me Skype in to her class, but it felt kinda weird the first time I tried and it was always on nights when I had my son. I didn't think I had the time, but she was right in saying that when I didn't think I had the time was when I needed it most.

I finally decided toward the start of this year that I needed to take a class one way or another, but living out in the Columbia River Gorge now the drive would be even greater to get to Portland. I was going to try an online class, but when I mentioned it to a colleague it turned out she was starting a class in just a few weeks so we could carpool.

The weekly classes have been helpful, but I have to admit I haven't been as good with the formal practices as I'd have liked. I was a little worried then as we approached our full day meditation retreat this weekend. I wasn't sure how I would deal with that much silence.

It turns out the day went way faster than I had feared. In fact, the guided meditations and mindful activities made the day go fast enough that I could have actually gone with even more silence than there was (not a lot more mind you).

I shut down my phone for the day, and had no sense of time. It was pretty freeing to just be told what to do and just go with the flow. In fact, the time that felt to drag on the longest was when we all got to talk about our experience.

An interesting thing I've observed about myself on a couple of occasions in class is that I feel uncomfortable with empty space in conversation. I also tend to get uncomfortable with empty space in my day. Not that I'm always productive by any means, but I often fill it with business or social interaction either in person or online.

My goal this week is to find that quiet place more consciously and often and appreciate the times without a lot of chatter. My brain has already slowed down it's chatter during the guided activities so my hope, with practice, will be to slow and step back to observe it on my own.

A Quiet Place

Embracing Chaos

As the holidays approached, I saw so many blog posts in my inbox on how to survive the stress of the holidays. I believe I did alright for my self in that regard this year.

I mean sure, I did have a little moment of panic when winter break began and I hadn't done anything toward preparing my house for our annual family party or making gifts for anyone. But I had a plan, and it was doable.

Holidays have not always been so easy for me. Getting my excitable family together for the holidays is sort of like herding cats. Trying to get everyone to come to consensus and move toward anything is a challenge. Also, we have a tendency to spread out with stuff finishing our last minute gifts. And planning ahead? Well now that's not likely for most of us. This is all understandable when you get so many creative minded folks together.

The problem comes when you push against it and expect it to be any other way.

One of my most enjoyable holidays came at a most unexpected time.  It was my first Christmas after divorce with a colicky infant. I had moved into a new house days before family came from out of town and a blizzard hit right after they arrived.  Fortunately, my sister lived within walking distance so we split our time going between the two.

I was fully prepared for a hair raising holiday, but instead I just embraced the chaos.

Now I can't say I don't get a little testy now and then around the holidays, but I don't tend to carry it with me as much as I used to.

By embracing the chaos, I can fully appreciate the love and acceptance that my family has to give!