Increasingly I am finding that my clients are really resonating with my meditation practice. I was raised Catholic, but ironically, I know more about Buddhism than 12 years of Catholic school actualized.
I do believe, with each passing day, that a spiritual grounding is essential for optimal health. As I nurture this aspect of life with my clients, I see a profound change come over them during our time together.
As we head into the home stretch of 2010, I encourage you to stretch your spirituality muscle a bit. What would 2011 bring to you if you felt more connected to something beyond the tangible and physical world?
What roles do spirituality and meditation and/or prayer play in your life, currently? What do you get from it? What do you stand to gain from expanding it and/or building upon it?
My own spiritual practice transcends to each interaction, relationship and experience. I am humbly grateful to mentors along my path who nurtured my search for truth and meaning because it grounds everything I do, everything I say and puts all the "small stuff" into such a grand perspective. It helps me breathe more deeply. It relieves stress. It allows me to focus at work and it brings more love into my relationships.
Despite being raised Catholic, meditation and Buddhist philosophies have provided me more mental, physical and emotional stability and health so they have been my primary focus for the past 8 years. I worked for a spiritual community/organization for several years and have a deep understanding and respect for each religion (and curiosity about the ones which I have yet to know more intimately). I find many people in my life don't talk about religion or spirituality---and it comes as no surprise. It is safer and "more polite" to not speak of it. Just like politics, right?
But at what cost?
As a health coach, I experience the beauty of being open and honest about my own vital spiritual practice. My clients repeat back phrases and words I use, namely identifying instances where they witness "the Universe" at work in their lives. Let me tell you, there is nothing more rewarding. More than the greens they ate, more than the relationship they negotiated, more than the minutes logged on the treadmill---when my clients share a connection they made to something outside themselves as a result of our work together...I feel truly satisfied. I have helped someone connect to something upon which to rely when life feels unmanageable, unreasonable or really fucking confusing.
As I head into 2011, I resolve to deepen spiritual exploration with each of my clients and challenge my peers to expand this area of their lives.
What changes, if any, will you make to your own spiritual life?
Spend the next two hours listening before speaking. Let someone speak and complete their sentence/story/etc. before interrupting.
So how did you do?
What was it like to listen and be silent? What went through your head? Did you listen to what people were saying or were you judging and thinking about what you were going to say next the whole time?
Years ago, I learned that there were many different ways to be a listener--some of them better than others. I try not to judge things as good or bad, when I am with my clients we have a rule that we don't label their food choices or behaviors as "being good" or "being bad". There are nutritious and non-nutritious choices, in every aspect of life. Not good and bad ones. Those words evoke shame and blame. When we say something is somewhere on a spectrum of the myriad of choices available, it feels empowering because we know we can chose better for ourselves each time to bring more happiness and abundance into our lives.
Such is the case with listening.
I'm hosting a teleclass on Being a Good Listener in the near future so I won't give away all the goodies right now, but there are definitely ways of listening and being present that enrich our lives and the lives of others--and ways that do not. I am currently studying a technique of communication that I am finding exceedingly powerful, and alot of it entails improving my listening skills. It isn't just about being quiet. It's about being aware of the person speaking as well as your own internal voice. You are bound to have responses to whatever you are hearing--how are you able to balance the need to respond (or react) with your role listener?
How are your current skills as a listener affecting your personal and professional lives?
What would you change, if anything?
If you don't know, keep your ears peeled for my teleclass coming in the new year...
Did you notice I didn't write yesterday? Well, good. That means you are interested in your health. That's good news. Maybe you like what I'm sharing. Maybe you were keeping tabs to make sure I stuck to my word.
Well, I didn't post yesterday. It's true. I missed a day of posting my 10 Tips to 2011. It's been my goal for some time to share some nuggets of joy and insight with the larger public--it's the rad work I do with my clients. Not everyone has a health coach. But everyone can benefit from more health and happiness in life. And so, here are my 10 Tips for your health.
(take a break and read the others-----come back and read this when you're finished. It's like me trying to watch Glee recently. Who is Finn dating now?!!!)
We have a few more days left before the end of 2010 and the opening of 2011 and you know what? I am really really excited. This day alone has been stellar both personally and professionally. I anticipate many amazing things headed my way in the coming weeks and months.
It's really ok. You might have noticed that the world didn't stop spinning and hell didn't freeze over just because I didn't post an entry to my blog. I guarantee, with a stamp, that the same goes for your life. Were you one of the lucky people who had to go to work on Monday despite the Snowpocalypse? I was. And you know what? It was fun. It was cool to be working on a day that felt like zombies had taken over.
It was sooooo quiet outside...
But I know many people who had the day off and they were completely paralyzed. Staying home was so unfamiliar, it took a couple hours for them to acclimate and adjust to having "free time" that wasn't planned.
I remember being that person--I remember feeling like that. When I took a sick or personal day, it felt like I had lost my wallet or my keys. That "what's about to fall?" feeling was gross.
Glad I got over that!
I'm not suggesting you become a complete irresponsible jerk and call out and screw over the people depending on you (bosses, coworkers, customers, clients, etc.), but really--take a break once in a while. Don't do the thing you do everyday. Use personal time or sick time from work if you've earned it. Take a break and party with new friends instead of sitting at your desk and studying for endless hours/days. Find the balance of work and play and rest. You can't find it if you don't exercise that muscle--so try it!
The simple act of doing something outside your routine and taking time for yourself in the process will do wonders to reveal the ways you're limiting yourself. What lines have you drawn around your time and your health as a result of the choices you make? Shake it up by allowing yourself a day, an hour, a weekend to step away from pressure, stress and expectations.
What happens? What comes up? What doesn't happen that you feared might? What did you gain access to as a result?
Go ahead and try it. 2011 is your year. Go out and play.
Don't eat the yellow snow.
This isn't for your grandma. It's for you. Today's tip to 2011 is about an essential part of the human diet, but one that is in short supply in the Standard American Diet (S.A.D.)
- you shop at a typical "supermarket" and your cart is filled with anything and/or everything canned, frozen or boxed from the center aisles
- you rarely shop the perimeter of the store, and whole fruits and veggies don't make their way into your cart in large amounts
- your plate is regularly filled with animal meat/fat
- you eat alot of highly processed carbs (bagels, pasta, cereal, bread, pizza)
- your food contains alot of unhealthy fats (saturated, hydrogenated)
- Insoluble fiber. This type of fiber promotes the movement of material through your digestive system and increases stool bulk, so it can be of benefit to those who struggle with constipation or irregular stools. Whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts and many vegetables are good sources of insoluble fiber.
- Soluble fiber. This type of fiber dissolves in water to form a gel-like material. It can help lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels. Soluble fiber is found in oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley and psyllium.
A SNOWPOCALYPSE! Finally!
After weeks of hearing peeps down in NYC and NJ talking about the pretty white stuff, we finally get some ourselves. Sheesh! And a White Christmas it shall be after all. Sweet.
Ok, great. I'm snowed in. So what's the tip for today, you ask?
Well, the rad snowfall is a good opportunity to talk about something we all need to do and should--but I, for one, struggle to find time to make it happen. Exercise. Yes, today's Tip to 2011 is EXERCISE.
Here's how I see it: we all need to do it. Some of us love it. Some of us hate it. Some of us hardly have the time to make it happen. But you can't escape the fact that exercise is an essential part of a healthy, balanced life. We need the muscle tone to make our bodies move correctly, look good and fit and to prevent any number of injuries and/or other related issues. We need the cardio health and the bone density/strength. We need the endorphins to keep our mood up and our spirits afloat, especially for those of you joining me in the Great Dark Northeast.
So what is my recommendation to make exercise a part of your life?
Just do it.
Just get out and do something. I don't care what it is. Yoga. Pilates. Running. Dance classes. Snowball fights! Just get up and move your body, especially if you are susceptible to depression or anxiety, if you gain weight easily or if you're noticing more aches and pains of late. A little exercise goes a long way to remedy some of those symptoms. Go for a balance of cardio, stretching and strength training. There is so much technology available, you can do this in a 10x10 space. Make it simple, make it consistent, make the time to do it.
Check in with a personal trainer or other exercise specialist to learn the latest recommended times, heartrates, peak levels, etc. It's a new science, always changing. I'm not certified in that area, but I do know people who are. If you don't have anyone who can help you, contact me. I'll direct you to someone who can. Once you know what you're aiming for, try to make it happen the best you can each day because the goal of moving your bod is to keep it healthy and strong. If you're in it for another reason, check in with that reason. How is it working for you? If you're dreading going to the gym or the yoga studio, you're probably not doing the right exercise for your needs. It should be fun and intentional--as with anything in life. If it's neither of those things, stop doing it.
I had one client who hated eating broccoli. I said, "fine. Don't eat it. But tell me what you're eating instead that is just as healthy."
That's my philosophy and it's what my clients learn to love about their new way of living life.
Don't do what you hate, do more of what you love until it becomes a new lifestyle habit that you can't stop raving about.
It's snowing. We wanted pizza. Instead of having the poor delivery person come out in this mess, we walked the .5 mile to go get it ourselves. We walked back in the blustery headwind and laughed when we almost fell over in the drifts. Simple, practical, intentional, fun.
Now get out there and throw a few snowballs, will you?!
Christmas dinner is over and it was a veritable feast. It was the first time I've ever had goose. And sweet potatoes mashed with roasted bananas and covered with a nut/cinnamon crumb topping. The asparagus with Hollandaise was lovely.
And as I sat there and placed my napkin beside my plate I felt a warm feeling of gratitude throughout my body. This Christmas I am grateful for many things, but one of them I count above all others.
I am really looking forward to bedtime tonight. I have enjoyed tremendously healing, deep sleep almost every night for many consecutive months in a row---and after having suffered through acute insomnia a couple of years ago (and again last winter) I am really enjoying the many healing benefits of good, hearty sleep.
Some simple research on sleep reveals startling and sometimes dismal statistics. If you've landed on this page, I trust you to google whatever information you need to convince you that sleep, like water, isn't optional if you want good health and more happiness in your life. The biological effects of good sleep are many. I can testify to the improvement in my own quality of life since I made a few simple but very important changes to my sleep habits.
I enjoy these changes from last year:
1) less feelings of depression and anxiety 2) better sleep quality; I sleep like a rock and wake up refreshed 3) awakening without an alarm clock 4) more energy and stamina to make it through very long days
A couple of years ago, I paid no attention to the correlation between my bedtime, my sleep and my life. When I lived on a very busy street, I slept with ear plugs in each ear to drown out the noise. With increased mindfulness and intentionality during my training as a health coach, I eventually had to move because the noise was just too much for me. My next apartment will be far from the nearest busy street. I sleep very lightly and the quieter my environment, the better. I was also grappling with an unhealthy relationship and a job that wasn't a right fit. It became increasingly difficult to sort through these complex situations with a sleep deprivation cloud hovering over everything. Where did one thing begin and another end?
That wasn't working. Now things are very different.
I've worked hard to develop a habit of getting into bed and settled down at the same time each night. When I don't do this, my sleep quality suffers. When I go to bed stressed from my day, my sleep suffers. When I try to extend my workday beyond my personal limits, my sleep suffers. As the winter sets in and decreased daylight begins to affect my hormones and circadian rhythms, my sleep suffers.
Besides a consistent bedtime, several other key changes I've made (none of which involved spending even $1) have resulted in many nights of deep restful sleep and now:
My mood is better. I haven't been sick in over 4 months. My weight is stabilized. My skin is clearer. My memory retention has increased and my response time is faster.
I am really looking forward to bedtime tonight. It will set me up for a good productive day tomorrow. It will keep me on a schedule to maintain balance emotionally, mentally and physically.
And after a long day of eating warming, hearty foods---it is exactly what my body needs. What better present is there?
It's late evening on Christmas eve, but I'm keeping to my promise. 1 Tip each day until 2011.
Today's tip is quite perfect because this is literally the first chance I've had all day to relax.
It's late. I'm tired from a long day, a long week and a loooooong year.
I work retail and run my own business. I have wonderfully rich and challenging relationships. I am a Gemini and I am blessed with an active imagination and I am in touch with my emotions.
All of these combined make for many wonderful opportunities to breathe deeply in order to relax, slow down and/or get perspective. Oh and it's the holiday season. And winter is upon us. And it's cold...
Not all breathing is the same, and from what I have learned--it's important to do it right. And you'll know when you're not. A client recently asked me during a meditation session: "what is this actually doing for me?"
While involuntary most of the time, we can (and should) make breathing an intentional act as often as possible, particularly when we feel stressed, tired, challenged or as a way to practice when we aren't feeling any of those things. Physiologically, breathing correctly brings much-needed oxygen into our lungs, blood and brain. Next time you feel stressed and have a headache, try to stop and notice your breath. Have you taken in enough oxygen in the past 2 minutes? 15 minutes? 30 minutes? Hmm...
How about interpersonal experiences? How many times have you taken a deep breath before responding to "that person" who always has a way of triggering you? A work associate? A parent? A sibling?
This is what I do with my clients. See how it works for you:
- lie flat on your back or sit up really tall in a chair
- place your hand on your lower belly
- take a deep breath in and instead of raising your shoulders when you pull air into your lungs, instead push out your gut so your hand moves an inch or more. I know. It feels weird. Do it anyway.
- as you exhale, pull your belly back in toward your spine.
- REPEAT the inhale.
- REPEAT the exhale.
- REPEAT the inhale.
- REPEAT the exhale.
- Teach this to someone else and practice it as often as possible.
Ok friends! It's about that time.
We have 10 days until 2010 is officially behind us and, I don't know about you, but I am REALLY jazzed about it. 2010 was challenging and rewarding for me in many ways--and I am really excited to implement all the valuable lessons, skills and brilliant insights I gained from the past 12 months.
In celebration of "waving good-bye to the old" and "Welcoming the New", I am posting 10 Tips to 2011 each day until January 1st, 2011.
Each day, I'll share one way you can improve your life for the better. If you strive to coordinate each tip into your daily life--you will see improvements in:
- quality of sleep
- energy levels
- interpersonal relations
- general outlook and attitude
These are just a few of the benefits you should experience as a result of living a life of more intention and balance. These next 10 days are a snippet (love this word) of what my clients experience in our work together. I am so glad to welcome 2011, I am now sharing a slice of what makes my life so good with you.
From what I can find, 2.4 litres is about the same as 2.5 quarts.
Are you drinking 2.5 quarts of water each day? That's an 8-ounce glass of water, 10 times.
Water is absolutely essential but many people seem to think it's optional. I run into so many people who casually comment on their water intake like it's a game they are playing---you know how people do that with plants? They will let the leaves droop and get dried up and then water it and watch it become green and spring back to life?
No? Only me?
Seems people are doing this to themselves and don't really understand the many ways it is negatively affecting their health. On a basic level, we need water to hydrate our hard-working brains to think clearly and execute simple and complex motor functions (think school, work, relationships, etc.)
Water is physiologically necessary to transport minerals, vitamins and nutrients to our organs and through our intestines. This isn't something we can opt-out of without experiencing some painful and uncomfortable results.
Want to look younger? More awake and healthy? Drink water. It hydrates your skin from the inside out in a way no over-priced face cream can.
Want to feel less aches and pains? Drink water. It lubricates your joints, tissues and helps pass toxins on through.
Want to have a better outlook on life? Less headaches? More energy? Drink water.
This holiday season, do yourself a favor. Drink about 16 ounces before leaving the house for any holiday party or gathering and notice how it affects your experience. Note how you feel and send me a message and I'll send you a free bottle of HINT water just for taking on my challenge.
More H2O for 2011!!
From the Chopra Center website:
Ayurveda is a 5,000-year-old system of natural healing that has its origins in the Vedic culture of India. Although suppressed during years of foreign occupation, Ayurveda has been enjoying a major resurgence in both its native land and throughout the world. Tibetan medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine both have their roots in Ayurveda. Early Greek medicine also embraced many concepts originally described in the classical ayurvedic medical texts dating back thousands of years.
More than a mere system of treating illness, Ayurveda is a science of life (Ayur = life, Veda = science or knowledge). It offers a body of wisdom designed to help people stay vital while realizing their full human potential. Providing guidelines on ideal daily and seasonal routines, diet, behavior and the proper use of our senses, Ayurveda reminds us that health is the balanced and dynamic integration between our environment, body, mind, and spirit.
Recognizing that human beings are part of nature, Ayurveda describes three fundamental energies that govern our inner and outer environments: movement, transformation, and structure. Known in Sanskrit as Vata (Wind), Pitta (Fire), and Kapha (Earth), these primary forces are responsible for the characteristics of our mind and body. Each of us has a unique proportion of these three forces that shapes our nature. If Vata is dominant in our system, we tend to be thin, light, enthusiastic, energetic, and changeable. If Pitta predominates in our nature, we tend to be intense, intelligent, and goal-oriented and we have a strong appetite for life. When Kapha prevails, we tend to be easy-going, methodical, and nurturing. Although each of us has all three forces, most people have one or two elements that predominate.
For each element, there is a balanced and imbalance expression. When Vata is balanced, a person is lively and creative, but when there is too much movement in the system, a person tends to experience anxiety, insomnia, dry skin, constipation, and difficulty focusing. When Pitta is functioning in a balanced manner, a person is warm, friendly, disciplined, a good leader, and a good speaker. When Pitta is out of balance, a person tends to be compulsive and irritable and may suffer from indigestion or an inflammatory condition. When Kapha is balanced, a person is sweet, supportive, and stable but when Kapha is out of balance, a person may experience sluggishness, weight gain, and sinus congestion.
An important goal of Ayurveda is to identify a person’s ideal state of balance, determine where they are out of balance, and offer interventions using diet, herbs, aromatherapy, massage treatments, music, and meditation to reestablish balance.
This system is on my mind these days, particularly as my body adjusts to the winter months. Seasonal affective disorder has always been a problem for me (at least since moving to Boston) and this winter I'm determined to eat and live in harmony and balance (as much as possible) to prevent disagreeable symptoms.
So far, so good.
In addition to my private practice, I also work at Cambridge Naturals--a locally owned natural products and health store in Porter Square Shopping Center in Cambridge, MA. We have some wonderful customers from a wide range of fields, backgrounds and interests. One day a particularly nice person offered me this recipe for a delicious AND SIMPLE Ayurvedic breakfast.
Give it a try and pay attention to the following right after eating and throughout your day:
-any physical sensations -any mental or emotional changes
Feel free to post comments here! Share the wealth for health!
1 Tb ghee* (melted)
1 Tb raw honey or coconut oil (melted)
1 tsp of powdered (or grated) ginger root, cinnamon and turmeric
sprouted wheat bread (or cooked whole grain of your choice)
1) mix ghee, honey and spices together with a knife in a small bowl
2) toast bread**, add the spread---AND WOW!
This is easy, fast and really delicious. No more excuses for leaving the house without anything in your stomach AND it's a huge improvement from your daily bagel and cream cheese. Why?
Here are the benefits of what you're eating:
Ghee: Ghee, also known as clarified butter in anglophone countries, is made by simmering unsalted butter in a cooking vessel until all water has boiled off and the milk solids, or protein, have settled to the bottom and a scum has floated on top. After removing the scum the cooked and clarified butter is then spooned off or tipped out carefully to avoid disturbing the milk solids on the bottom of the pan. Ghee can be stored for extended periods without refrigeration, provided it is kept in an airtight container to prevent oxidation and remains moisture-free. The texture, colour or taste of ghee depends on the source of the milk from which the butter was made and the extent of boiling/simmering.-Wiki
To be honest, I have run into some dead-ends when it comes to ghee. Ayurveda contends its health benefits, but Dr. Andrew Weil, M.D., doesn't recommend it highly. Do your research and make a decision that feels right for you.
Raw honey: when it hasn't been pasteurized or heated, many of the original enzymes and nutrients remain intact. Raw honey is a very medicinal food--not just a convenient sweetener. Not all honey is the same so make sure you're getting raw honey which is the most nutritional--not the stuff in that container of a little bear with a hat. I'll write another blog post about this in the future.
Turmeric: a spice that has proven to reduce inflammation in the body. Inflammation can take many forms, not just aches and pains. It can show up as IBS, acne and depression.
Cinnamon: a spice that may regulate your blood-sugar levels. In this recipe, I noticed I didn't crash mid-morning.
Ginger: A warming and healing spice. Good for digestion and may have anti-bacterial properties, among many others.
Coconut Oil: I haven't had much personal experience with this other than another quick recipe I'll post in the future. I intend to cook with it using heat soon, and I'll let you know what I discover. In short, though, many people believe in the health benefits of coconut oil which are many, so read this article:
I enjoy this breakfast immensely and look forward to discovering and sharing more solutions for battling SAD naturally in the coming months!