Monday, December 19, 2016

Soul Trainer

A few weeks ago, I shared this month marks my one-year business anniversary and my three year blogiversary. It’s so weird to look back at my old entries. It’s like re-reading old journals. I’m still kind of amazed that I decided to chronicle my life experiences and observations in such a public forum. As I said before, it’s cool to see how things change and remain the same.

I started my blog after a huge life transition. And in the last three years, there have been several more. I’ve written about career, relationships, hurts, and healing. I’ve written as a (hopefully) wise friend, guide, and co-journeyer. I’ve demonstrated how fitness and movement have become my metaphors for overcoming in life. Basically, I feel like I’ve found myself, healed my heart, and discovered purpose in this blog- to promote health and strength from the inside out.

So, when a life coach friend of mine told me one day, “You’re like a soul trainer,” it totally resonated with me. Yes. I suppose I am. And I’m not a counselor-trainer who will just give you the prescription and rattle off book knowledge without having gone through the process myself. If you’ve followed me for a while, you know I have been walking through it all right along with you. It only makes sense then for me to finally settle into a more appropriate blog name. Soul Trainer. Nothing will really change as far as what I write about. I’m just clarifying my focus in a way that captures what I really do. Let us continue to grow together in strength, joy, and wellness.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Stay on the mat

Recently I finished reading "Love Warrior," a memoir by Glennon Doyle Melton. In it, she shared personal and relational struggles and the tough work of becoming whole. She wrote with such refreshing transparency. I feel like we could be friends. She shared how healing yoga was for her during a crisis period in her marriage. One day, however, she wandered into a 90 minute hot yoga class by mistake. She had almost made her exit when the instructor greeted her. Now, she was stuck. As everyone went around the room stating their intentions for the practice, you know, stuff like, "I want to be one with myself," or "I want to illuminate love and light," etc., she had something else in mind. When the teacher asked her what she hoped to gain, she kept it 100: "I'm just going to try to get through whatever is about to happen, stay on the mat, and not run out of here." Yep. Totally my kind of woman.

Throughout the rest of her yoga session as well as the book she kept returning to that metaphor. Stay on the mat. It came to mean doing the hard work and not squirming out of it. It meant staying present when tough feelings emerged. It meant remaining grounded in a difficult conversation or emotional moment, rather than checking out, shutting down, or hiding behind your walls. I simultaneously love and hate everything about that. I know intuitively that it's necessary for a healthy relationship with ourselves and others. It's also incredibly uncomfortable and even painful.

I'm reminded of that during this love season. It's all fun and games until it hurts, until there's misunderstanding to sort through, until there's conflict. But when reactions get visceral and things get real in your relationships, vow to stay on the mat. Try it with me today. I know it's going to be hard, but all you really have to do is breathe, stay present, and stay open.

When someone you respect reveals a deeply held belief that opposes yours, stay on the mat. When everything in you wants to rage, wail, or numb your emotions altogether, stay on the mat. When you feel hurt, misunderstood, and invalidated, stay on the mat. When you're starting to feel happy and you're struggling to trust it, stay on the mat. Stay present. Stay open. Stay loving. Most of all, stay connected- to your feelings and to others. Next time it gets heated and feels hard, remember this. You are a warrior and you can endure. Don't punk out. Stay on the mat.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Bougie discomfort

A couple of weeks ago I was talking with a client. She is a therapist in training, so in addition to discussing her personal concerns, we usually end up chatting about psychology concepts. You know, because we're cool like that. Anyway, in our last session, she introduced me to a mindfulness practice called bourgeois discomfort. Since I like to colloquial term "bougie" a little better that's what I'll use.

Basically, bougie discomfort is a way of training yourself to cope with unpleasant situations. For instance, if the temperature is not to your liking, rather than rushing to turn on the heat or the AC unit, just sit with it for a while without frantically trying to change it. Another example might be to sit in an uncomfortable position for a short period of time. Sit. Breathe. Notice the discomfort and notice that it either lessens or you just adapt to it.

I practiced this a little during my birthday travels. Most of my trip was spent in the middle seat on the plane and in a cramped back seat of a car. I also had a different eating schedule than I'm used to, so I got to practice whenever I felt hungry or slightly nauseated. I was never in pain or facing any harm, of course. In fact, I imagine it's called bougie discomfort because you're not facing real suffering. You are just practicing being a little less comfortable than usual, definitely good practice for people with first world problems. The hope is that as you learn to adapt to different uncomfortable conditions, then you're better able to cope when things actually get real.

Give it a try. How can you offend your bougie sensibilities today? Can you sit through a boring meeting? Can you breathe through a traffic jam? Can you hold that plank position a few seconds longer? Can you settle into a sensation without rushing to fix or change it? I bet you'll find you can withstand way more than you realize. That, or you'll realize, at least in some cases, the things we desperately try to avoid maybe aren't so bad after all.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Bloated, blah Mondays and practicing non-judgment

It was a rainy day in my neck of the woods...the kind that makes you want to curl up and take a nap after work. I felt like moving a little might be good though. Maybe I should go lift, I thought. Um, no. High intensity interval training? Uh, hard no. I didn't even feel like going to the gym. So instead, I opted to do a yoga-style flow at home.

Before I started, I set an intention of just moving mindfully and non-judgmentally. I didn't have a pre-choreographed routine and I wasn't following anyone's instruction. I was just going to go with the flow and see where my body took me in 45-50 minutes. Here's what I discovered...or perhaps, rediscovered. 

Non-judgment is not about being nice to yourself and it's more than about not being mean. It's about removing any labels or evaluations at all. It's about simply noticing what's there. Instead of labeling it or expressing opinion about it, you train yourself to witness it, observe it, and describe it. It's learning to be neutral and tabling bias. [I say tabling because it's very difficult to be totally bias free]. I'll give you examples of how to neutralize a statement by using a few judgments I noticed throughout today's practice.

I'm lazy. I should go to the gym.
It's important to listen to my body and give it what it needs, even if that means a lighter workout at home.

I really don't like my stomach. I wish I had a six pack.
I notice I am bloated in my midsection today. The skin around my core feels soft to touch.

I'm hairy and gross and need to get rid of it.
I notice the stubble on my legs (and chin for that matter).

My balance sucks today.
The balancing poses feel challenging today.

I wish I could do hardcore inversions.
I am where I am today. 

Get the point? I don't overcompensate and say an affirmation. That's more like self-love. I don't accept a false reality. There's nothing mindful about denial. I just remove the sting of judgment by staying neutral and being present with what is right now.

Give it a try. First, it'll take becoming aware of your judgments. Then once you are, practice removing the opinions and assumptions from them. Take away all evaluations and shoulds. Just notice, observe, and describe. See if practicing this stance as a way of life doesn't transform you and everyone else around you. At the very least, you might find relief in this gentler way of relating.