Sunday, August 13, 2017

Where wellness is found when the world is falling apart


It's a weird time to be alive. Last week there were nuclear threats by North Korea. Yesterday in Charlottesville, Virginia a Klan rally became deadly. Sometimes it's hard to keep posting my feel-good stuff as usual as if current events aren't happening. Sometimes I feel like my wellness messages are needed even more during times like this. Then sometimes I just don’t know what to say at all. Right now is kind of one of those times and yet I'll reach for the words anyway because they're needed. I think I'll share where I'm finding respite from the rampant bigotry, violence, and chaos.

One of my favorite finds of the summer is a local yoga collective that offers pop-up classes all of the community. I’ve been going to a sunset session on the pier. It's a large class that draws a diverse crowd. Lately, we have been closing class with the following recitation:

May all beings everywhere be happy and free. And may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to the happiness and freedom for all.



It’s aspirational, for sure, but that’s why I like it. Whether or not it can be realized in our lifetime, I’m comforted that there is a remnant of those who still want to believe peaceful relations are possible. It kind of feels like a throwback to John Lennon’s song, “Imagine.” I might be a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.

Another place I’ve found respite is church. I’m thankful to attend a genuinely diverse church that goes beyond multicultural images for the website. They are truly intentional about diversity of ethnicity, liturgical tradition, and sociopolitical views. Most importantly, they are not afraid to denounce the hatred that’s become the norm in our culture. It’s very affirming to have clergy members, particularly those of the majority culture, take a stand rather than shrink back in silence. It’s really important to know who your allies during times like these.

A final place I’ve gotten a break from all the hate is in the marketplace. It seems that everywhere from laundry mats to farmer’s markets to Starbucks are the great equalizers. People from all backgrounds come and seem open to connect. Perhaps it’s just my recent experience, but I’ve noticed people being a little friendlier: making eye contact, smiling, engaging in small talk and actually waiting for a response. It might just be a simple gesture, but any evidence of human kindness these days gives me hope that there’s still beauty in the world.

What about you? Where are your safe places? Where are you getting a break from the heaviness of life? Netflix is cool. Sometimes you just need to distract and escape with a fictional drama. But what about opportunities to connect with people around you? Now, more than ever, we have to remind ourselves that compassion, goodness, and love exist. If, by chance, you don’t see those qualities around you, perhaps you can embody them. And maybe in doing so, you can contribute to the happiness and freedom for all. Nice thought, right?

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Sick days and true wellness


I’ve been dealing with some health stuff. Thankfully, nothing too serious. I had something simple needing a quick round of antibiotics followed by some kind of stomach bug. I never get stomach bugs. Like ever. Awfulness was flying out both ends. Quite literally scared the crap out of me. Graphic, I know. But as with most intense experiences, the last few days have taught me some valuable life lessons.

Walk in wellness

It amazed me how quickly I developed a sick mindset. What I mean is that even once the symptoms had passed, I continued to think and act like I was sick. I was tentative about eating and drinking anything. I was fearful that the symptoms might come back. Even once I was feeling fine and the pep in my step returned, I was still worried. Finally, I had to tell myself, “Girl, you are fine. You know you're hungry. Eat some real food and keep it moving.” It might seem weird, but as I resumed my well behaviors (eating, walking, stretching, etc.) my healing continued.

Face the fear

A second realization is that I live in a perpetual fear of sickness and death. Maybe that’s why I’m so drawn to wellness and prevention. I mean, if you can prevent issues, why wouldn’t you try? That’s fine, I guess. But what it showed me is that avoiding sickness just reinforces the fear and limits my ability to be resilient. I’m not ever going to volunteer for a struggle. But perhaps, I can adopt the mindset that there will always be grace to endure whatever comes. Rather than pray, "God, please don't let this happen," maybe, I can pray, "God, give me the strength to handle whatever does happen."

Know you’re not alone

A final lesson from my sick days is that God is always with me. I try to honor other faith traditions and spiritual beliefs, I really do. But, when I was throwing up by myself at 3am and feeling scared and lonely, I called on my Father. The universe was not going to comfort me. Love, light, and good vibes were not coming to my rescue. I needed Jesus. I needed the One knew me from eternity, created my body, and already made provision for my healing. I knew if I lived or died He was with me and that gave me peace like nothing else.

 Deep thoughts from a 24-hour bug, I know. I think these are the moments when life can really show us something if we’re listening. I’m here for the movement, the mindfulness, the nutrition, for all things wellness, really. But if and when we face sickness and pain in these mortal bodies, can we still walk in wellness? Can we face our fears knowing we’re not alone? That’s my new wellness goal.


Sunday, July 16, 2017

Poop, play, and the platitudes of life


We’ve all heard the endless platitudes about mindful living: Be thankful. It’s the little things. Live in the moment. Just because they’re over-stated doesn’t make them any less true. In fact, several examples come to mind as I intentionally shift my focus from the aggravation to the awe of daily life.

1.     As I sip my coffee and write this post, there’s a corgi at my feet. She's been my house guest the last four days. For a full weekend, I was a dog owner (or at least watcher). Truthfully, I missed most of the joy of it because I let the stress consume me. The bodily functions, the 5am risings, the power struggles, the guilt, the barking, the doggy breath- all of that sucked to be honest. But then there were the times she’d be sweet, follow me around the house or put her furry face in my lap and my stern demeanor would soften. So, that’s what I choose to focus on today. For one weekend, it was Crista and a corgi named Nala. She taught me to take the bad with the good.

2.     Another thing I’m thankful for is my beautiful new home. A couple of weeks ago I did a local move. It was a big deal because I had been where I was for five years. But to save money, I decided to find something more affordable. Not only did a great spot fall in my lap, but it happens to be golf course adjacent. Every time I walk the neighborhood, I see rolling golf greens. I think of it as my glimpse of the good life. This gem never would’ve presented itself had I not been open to finding it. So, you know, blessings outside your comfort zone and all that.
3.     I had the privilege of hanging with not one, but two friends this weekend. As endlessly sappy as it sounds, there are few things in this world I cherish more than time with friends. I wish I had more of it to be honest, but I’ll appreciate what I have. I was blessed to share a great workout and conversation with one friend and an evening of musical theater with another. I don’t always tell people how much the time means to me, but internally I feel loved and nourished. For now, my connection tank is full and I will give thanks. What’s the saying? It’s not about what you do, but who you’re with? Facts!


I’m sure there are dozens of other gratitude gifts from the weekend- the reliable pleasure from a Starbucks vanilla latte, the thunderstorms that watered the earth and cooled the temps a bit, the new book I’m reading that reminded me of these mindfulness truisms to begin with. If we look for something, we can always find it. Let's challenge ourselves to find the beauty in the small moments. I’m going to end here and take the pup outside again. There might very well be more poop, but there will also be play and that pretty much sums up life, right?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

What Kevin Hart, Kendrick Lamar, and Jesus teach about humility

"Everybody wants to be famous, but no one wants to do the work."
-Kevin Hart

I'm waiting for my Zumba class to start. Actually, I'm waiting to see if anyone will show at all. It seems most of my experience as an instructor has been in small facilities with small class sizes: like 2-3 people kind of small. That's a far cry from the image many people have of being a fitness professional. As with most things, there's expectation and then there's reality.

What do people expect? Well, they expect the sexy and the glamorous because fitness is so "in" now. They expect thousands of Instagram followers, fitness videos on the explore page, and beach boot camps in Cozumel. They expect their athleticism to earn them sponsorships and discount codes on high end Lululemon gear, especially the cute mesh leggings that are all the rage right now. Maybe if they're in the dance fitness world, they expect to be "Zumba's next rising star," (yes, that's actually a thing), be on DVD covers, and to lead stadiums full of neon clad enthusiasts in single, single double. Low key, that's kind of what I expected.

Expectation is quite different than reality though. Reality is humbling and perhaps it should be. Without realizing it, a touch of arrogance had snuck up on me. It's hard for it not to in a world where everyone is their own "brand" and everybody wants to be great. This attitude, of course, is nothing new. Social media is new, but the human desire for fame and glory is not. Take the disciples for instance.

In Mark 9, Jesus asked them what they had been arguing about on the road. They didn't say anything because they had been arguing about who among them was the greatest. Even without them responding, He discerned their hearts and said, "If anyone desires to be first, he shall be the last of all and servant of all," (v. 35). To me, this sounds like the divine precursor to Kendrick Lamar's, "Be humble, sit down" message of 2017.

Don't get me wrong. The glory moments are cool. I anticipate one this weekend- on stage leading a crowd of easily 50+ people in dance. But those moments are few and far between. And they aren't the moments that make someone great. It's in the moments of obscurity. It's in the times when I'm not really feeling it, lead a solid workout anyway, and make a single person's day. Maybe not even that. Maybe true greatness is expressed when I push aside all the presumed specialness of my gifts, degrees, and credentials and clean the mats. Like literally bust out the cleanser, the towels, and start scrubbing. In fact, maybe I'll pause now and do that.

Monday, May 29, 2017

What an IG post reminded me about peace, mindfulness, and radical acceptance

There I was preparing an Instagram post. I had my sufficiently athletic-looking fitness clips, an appropriate song, and what I thought was an amusing caption. For whatever reason the editing app was giving me trouble. Every time I would get ready to save the video the app shutdown and I would lose everything. This happened several times and I was becoming increasingly frustrated. Since I have been intentionally practicing mindfulness I reminded myself to breathe. I tried again, but this time I breathed in, held, and exhaled out. I somehow knew if I just relaxed it would work. Sure enough, it did. 

This simple example reminded me how often I live in a frantic state. Outwardly I appear calm; inwardly I'm like a dog spazzing out trying to get one of those cones off its head. It's almost like I'm afraid if I don't hurry and free myself I'll be trapped in my circumstances forever. This perspective, however, only heightens the desperation for things to change. Instead, I took charge of the moment in the only way I truly could- by accepting it. 

Acceptance isn't about liking your reality. You could very well want to change it. It's just that in order to keep your peace you train yourself to accept what is right now. You fully enter into the present moment without ruminating on the past or fretting about the future. It reminds me a lot of this scriptural passage about worry.
Matthew 6:25-27

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?


I think of this passage often as there are usually dozens of worries that plague me at any given time. They range from the inconsequential like whether I'll create a satisfactory post for the gram, to the considerable like will I be okay now and in the future. Either way, I'm challenged to consider what good it does me to worry. Can worry add time to my life? Nope! It can take time though. Can worry suddenly transform me into a clairvoyant with full knowledge of what's to come? I wish, but no. The conclusion, then, is that worry isn't helpful, but breathing is. Embracing the moment is. Trusting the process is.

I realize this is much easier said than done. There will be no "5 steps to get rid of worry" lists offered here because quite frankly there are none. Life is stressful. Anxiety will come. But through practice, continual, earnest, daily practice, we can discipline our souls to stay in peace. And when (not if) we drift from that peace, due to technological annoyances or existential crises, a gentle prompt to stay in the moment can bring us right back.










Monday, May 1, 2017

Because happy doesn't need memes and caffeine


When was the last time you honestly enjoyed your job? I'm not talking about a grin and bear it, hope for minimal suckage attitude. I'm talking about genuinely feeling as though you had fun doing what you do and you were in the zone? If you can't remember, then maybe you're like me. I have never been a #lovemyjob type of person because quite frankly, I have never hashtag loved my job. But you know what? In the last several weeks, I have started to feel like those people, those fulfilled people…the ones who love their life and love their work. I must say the feeling is addictive.



It started with a new year’s intention. I wanted to speak more. I knew wellness education was my shtick. It satisfies me and others find it helpful. Therefore, I was just going to do it. I didn’t wait for an invitation. I wasn’t concerned with a title. I was no longer beating the bushes for a dream job. I decided this was who I am and it was time to make room for the work I truly love.

Guess what happened when I did that? I got not 1, not 2, but 7 speaking opportunities in March and April. One of them was a seminar that I co-hosted with a fellow entrepreneur over the weekend. It felt incredible. There was most definitely stress leading up to it. But once we started rolling, I felt like I was finally tasting what I was meant to do. 


It didn’t matter to these have been purely passion projects. None of them have yielded profit yet. In fact, I took time off my day job a few times to volunteer for some of these talks. How many people do that? To me though, there is no price tag for feeling content in who you are and what you do.

If this sheer joy at work feeling isn’t relatable for you, don’t worry. I couldn’t relate either until fairly recently. But believe me when I say that there is a sweet spot when your interests and your gifts intersect, you are fully awakened to your purpose, and others benefit. I’ll close with this. If you are one who needs a #MotivationalMonday thought with your coffee, let me submit this one to you with nothing but love and sincerity. Start now creating a life you love so you don’t need memes and caffeine to get through it. 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

It's all a matter of spoons

A month or two back one of my clients who has a rare autoimmune disease gave me a handout on Spoon Theory. Anyone who suffers with chronic illness is probably very familiar with this theory. It’s a simple analogy that equates spoons to energy reserves. Every daily activity requires a certain number of spoons. On tough days with the illness sometimes you have to make choices about what gets done because you simply don’t have the energy to do it all.

I immediately grabbed hold of this analogy because I think it has application for everyone.
I know I am extremely privileged because of my health and able-bodiedness. Therefore, I would never want to seem like I’m trivializing the plight of those who are differently abled than I. As a burnout and compassion fatigue preventionist, however, I think we can all be mindful and better stewards of our energy.

Do this for me. Spend some time today making a list of everything that requires your spoons this week. It’s not just tasks. Your relationships and even some of your self-care practices require spoons as well. Then, at the beginning and end of each day assess your spoon reserve? Maybe you’re blessed with physical health like me and you don’t have the added challenge of managing chronic pain or illness. Be thankful for that. That doesn’t mean you can’t learn something valuable from Spoon Theory. As the saying goes, success in life is more often about managing your energy than it is managing your time. It’s all a matter of spoons.