Sunday, July 16, 2017

Weekend Wisdom from 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.

Monday, April 10, 2017

That time I got my sexy back

OMG, I am still thinking about how much fun I had over the weekend. It was a beautiful sunny Sunday and rather than just doing my boring routine to prep for the week, I took a day trip. I met a few friends in a neighboring town to attend a dance class with a well-known choreographer. Her brand is known for empowering women and improving their confidence through dance. The whole afternoon was way out of my comfort zone, but I loved every minute.

The first thing that made it awesome was someone else teaching. As a fitness instructor, I’m used to leading. Sometimes it’s nice to follow someone else’s lead. Secondly, I liked challenging myself to do a style that’s extremely different than what I usually do. I guess some might consider Zumba sexy, but the floor work we did in this class was several levels up. Whereas the sexiness of Zumba sneaks up on you, the sexiness of this class was entirely in your face. But what made it safe and non-threatening was the fact that each woman there was on her own journey. We were challenged from the beginning to not focus on what significant other we might perform for later. We were told not to compare ourselves to the woman next to us. We were instructed from the jump to connect entirely to ourselves in the mirror and move in our own unique way.

So, for a little over two hours (the class ran over a bit), I was able to get lost. I was loosed from the male gaze (and the female gaze for that matter). I was loosed from the rules of decorum or what’s “appropriate.” I could just flirt, move, and have fun. It was so freeing.

Don’t get me wrong. I was still probably one of the most conservative attendees present. I won’t act like I wasn’t in my head at times. But I will say that it was so beautiful and liberating to explore my sassy, sensual side with a room full of other women who were doing the same. There aren’t many safe places to just relax and be free. I’m so grateful to that choreographer for creating a space for me.

What about you? Are there parts of your personality you’ve been wanting to explore? Maybe it’s not your sensuality. Maybe it’s your spirituality or your creativity. Maybe it’s your spontaneity. Maybe it’s a part of you that’s been dormant for whatever reason and it’s time to get reacquainted. I challenge you this week to make room for this part of you. Let her out and give her room to breathe. What if embracing all that you are is the very key to allowing someone else to do the same?

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Time for a reset

The realization came from navel-gazing- literal navel gazing. I was inspecting my stomach and wondering how someone so active and otherwise fit could be so "endowed" in the midsection. Stress? Probably part of it. PMS? I’m sure. But then I recalled the extra 250 calories I consume each time I treat myself to a Starbucks grande vanilla latte. Oh and then there's the red wine too, but let’s not go there.

The second observation was my blah mood. Thankfully, I think I’ve turned a corner and the persistent, low grade sadness for no reason doesn’t plague me as much anymore. But I was feeling down this weekend. I didn’t end up having any plans. I found things to do to get out of the house, but without company to enjoy them with it wasn’t quite the same. In my boredom, I found myself passively and compulsively scrolling on social media. That, of course, only led to comparison and loneliness. I could’ve and probably should’ve gone to my church’s Saturday night service. I wasn’t up for it though. Sometimes church is just one more place to feel lonely and disconnected. I just wasn’t up for faking a smile, making pleasantries during the greet-your-neighbor portion, and then leaving to go home by myself. Instead, I stayed home, started a new series on Netflix, and took in more needless calories.

Then, here it was, another #SundayFunday, and all I had to look forward to was laundry, meal prep, and hair washing. I decided that didn’t work for me. I still had to do all that stuff, of course. But I needed more. I needed to reset. I’ve never been one to diet or to get jazzed about a new workout plan. I can see why people are excited by those things though. They give you structure and accountability. They give you daily action points and help you measure progress. In a world where things are vague, it’s nice to have something concrete.

What exactly is my reset you might ask? Well, there are a lot of moving parts. Suffice it to say, my focus for the next 30 days is more of what I need and less of what I don’t. I hope to improve the way I nourish myself physically, relationally, and spiritually. Maybe this will be a deeply transformative experience. Maybe it’ll just be a subtle but necessary realignment. Either way, I know it’ll be good. What about you? It’s the second quarter of the year. Are you in need of a reset?

Sunday, March 19, 2017

A little Sunday school lesson on peace

Last night on the phone with my mom, I confided in her about a situation that had been weighing on me. I hadn’t realized it was upsetting me so much until I suddenly started to cry. I realized that it came down to grief; it was grieving my heart to witness someone close to me make poor choices for their life. As I continued to reflect this morning, I believe I got some perspective and I’d like to share it with you. Pull up a chair, boys and girls. It’s time for Sunday School.

As I was meditating, I recalled one of the accounts in scripture where Jesus wept with compassion.

When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes.” (Luke 19:41-42, NAS)

The Amplified version expands to say:

Would that you had known personally the things that make for peace (for freedom from all the distresses that are experienced as the result of sin and upon which your peace- your security, safety, prosperity, and happiness- depends)! But now they are hidden from your eyes.” (v. 42, Amplified)

Think about that. How many of us say we just want to have peace? We just want to be happy and live in quiet enjoyment. Well, the Lord is saying we can have all that and more. Yet, our eyes can’t see what’s been freely given.

When I wept last night, I was weeping for myself and for all of us. Why do we insist on choosing the hard way? I believe some suffering in this life just comes and doesn’t give us a choice in the matter. We just have to endure it. But then some suffering enters because of our choices. Why add needless pain to an already challenging life?

That’s my reflection today. Instead of focusing on what’s happening with other people, I will examine myself. I will recall the times when I’ve wandered down my own path and created drama and pain that could’ve been avoided. It’s not about shaming or judging myself. It’s about preserving the ability for sin to grieve me. It sounds strange, but I don't want to lose that tenderness of heart. Besides, when you realize that the outcome for any choice is either pain or peace, you’ll devote yourself to understanding the things that make for peace.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

On being a woman

Today is International Women’s Day and March is Women’s History Month. Because of this, I feel compelled to write about being a woman, mainly because the experience of being a woman is so complex. It’s complex because there are so many demands placed on women to be a certain way. There are so many times I second guess what I’d naturally be inclined to write or post, all because I’m afraid of what others might think. I never wanted to ostracize a segment of my audience. But I’m slowly entering a place now where I just want to be authentically me. It’s never my heart to offend. At the same time, I realize, I can’t please everyone. Therefore, I want to highlight all of the dialectics (seemingly opposite truths that exist simultaneously) of who I am in no particular order. You may take them or leave them, but this is who I am.

I’m a feminist
I wholeheartedly believe that women are equal to men, intellectually and socially. Therefore, women deserve equal rights. I’m not rah-rah and extra about being a feminist, but I am.

I’m pro-life
I believe that life begins even before conception (Jeremiah 1:5, Psalm 139:13) and God has a destiny for every living soul on this planet. But I would never EVER judge a woman who struggled with the difficult choice to terminate a pregnancy.

I drink
I love wine! Growing up, drinking was a normal part of family fellowship. It generally wasn’t in excess. It made life celebratory. So, if I drink with someone, it’s almost like a familial exchange. But if, by chance, drinking seems sinful to another, I’ll abstain in their presence. Why become a needless stumbling block for a brother or sister for whom Christ died (Romans 14:15)?

I’m celibate
I’ve never acknowledged this publically, because it’s extremely personal, but I am. It doesn’t make me a prude by any means. I believe I can still be sexy and sensual. It also does not mean I am judgmental of others who are sexually active. I just choose to wait until committed love enters my life and I’m certain I’ve found my partner in purpose. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like a choice, but I know it is.

I’m a democrat
Again, this has to do with upbringing. My heart gravitates toward the underdogs. As an empath, I naturally want to stand up for those without resources or a voice. If that makes me a bleeding heart or a snowflake, liberal, I’m totally okay with that.

I’m Spirit-filled
Believe it or not, I’m one of those evangelical, tongue-talking Christians. I know how to exercise spiritual authority, bind up demonic forces, and break you off on some scriptures. It doesn’t make me a perfect human. It just means I lean on the Holy Spirit a lot when things get real.

I cuss (sometimes)
I’m not proud of this necessarily because I recognize how divergent it is from the previous truth I mentioned. But yes, if I’m truly speaking authentically in the moment, you’ll hear an expletive sometimes. Don’t worry though. I try to reserve the F-bomb for truly special occasions.

I’m black
This is a reality some forget or overlook at times, but it’s a salient identity for me. Yes, I’m of the suburban, middle class, straight hair, light skin variety. But, I'm a proud black woman nonetheless. You’ll hear it in my inflection sometimes when you catch me code switching.

I’m a PhD
This is another important thing to mention that I’m usually weird and embarrassed about. But yeah, I’m super-duper educated. I generally downplay it so as not to make others feel inferior. I don’t think degrees make people better human beings. But I will break out the Dr. Gambrell as needed if I’m dealing with a jerk.

I’m 34
I realized that throughout my blog I’ve been vague about my age. Why? I wasn’t in my 20s. Why should I hide it in my 30s? Depending on your season of life, 34 might seem really young or really old to you. But hey, it’s where I am in this season. Either way, I hope you’ll converse with and experience me before limiting me to just a number.

I’m sure there are dozens of other identities or tendencies I could highlight, but I’ll close here. Why am I sharing all this, you might ask? What does this have to do with my whole wellness “brand?” What does it have to do with being a woman? Everything! When people have to put on different personas and ignore other identities to be accepted, it drains the soul. When I go before the Lord, I don’t have to be anyone other than who I am. Why should I switch it up for other people? My hope in sharing all of this is that you will be courageous enough to explore and celebrate all of your dimensions. All people, but especially women, are beautifully diverse creatures. Let’s honor all the idiosyncrasies and celebrate difference. Yes?

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Love Boot Camp

Today I just wrapped up a month long Love Lessons series on my Facebook Live page. Per my usual pattern of the last few years, I wanted to offer whatever wisdom I could to the couples of the world. I absolutely love love and I want to do all I can to promote goodness and health in every area, including relationships.

I concluded with a love boot camp. I gave different strengthening exercises people could do to increase emotional and relational fitness. Apart from being a little corny, there were great ideas for enhancing relational satisfaction. For specifics, check out the replay.

As I reflect on the series and look at this image of my friends (yep, these are real people I know and love, not just beautifully diverse models) I am reminded what a gift love is. It is one of the biggest miracles of life to find your person. Despite the earth’s population being around 7 billion, it’s still a rare thing to find someone and vibe. Then to not only vibe and be compatible, but for both of you to be ready and available to be together, well...that can take a while to find. When you do, cherish it. Don’t you dare take it for granted.

Look at relationships like anything else worth having. Look at it like your physical health, for instance. It requires maintenance. You’ll have to put in daily effort. If you slack on putting in the work, you’ll see the effects of your neglect. You might not notice right away, but eventually things will atrophy. At that point, it might seem impossible to rebuild and get back to where you were. But just as the body is amazingly resilient and can repair itself, so can the heart. If both people are willing, you can have the relationship you always wanted. The question is will you put in the work? If you appreciate what you have and what you stand to lose, then the answer should be a no brainer.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Surviving the worst Valentine’s Day of my life

I’ve been thinking about you, readers. I know there are some of you who are nursing a fresh heartbreak. Maybe you braved the holidays and the new year relatively fine. But the idea of facing your first Valentine’s Day without the person you love, is just too much for your heart to bear. Let me just say that I know the feeling and I totally get it. It’s been several years for me, but I remember the pain of loss well and I thought I’d share it with you. I wanted to share how I survived the worst Valentine’s Day of my life.

I scheduled a physical on Valentine's Day that year. It was reminiscent of Tina Fey's 30 Rock character, Liz, scheduling a root canal and personal protest to Valentine's Day. A funny show and a funny character. Except real life isn't nearly as funny as TV. I took the day off from work because I wanted a total day to myself without any triggers of that godforsaken Love day or “Michael” and his new girlfriend being intimate. Instead, the doctor seemed like a reasonable place to be.

I got a full work up for no other reason then I wanted to make sure I wasn't dying. It sounds dramatic, but it seriously felt like I was dying. It's weird. When the very worst thing you imagine actually happens to you, then anything awful enters the round of conceivability. Nothing feels safe anymore. Excerpt from "Healing through movement: Getting back up after a broken heart"

At that doctor’s appointment, I learned (at the time) I had high blood pressure and appeared pre-diabetic. Other than my body’s extreme reaction to the emotional stress of a horrible breakup, I was relatively fine. I was heartbroken, but fine.

I left the appointment even more anxious and tense. I picked up an orchid for myself. I wanted to look at something pretty and exotic. I went home, relieved that I had taken the day off. I made a tasty dinner, had some wine, ‘cause duh, it’s me. I watched a movie. I cried a few times. I had to redirect negative thoughts almost constantly. But, I made it through Love Day. It wasn’t easy, but I did it. I share all that because so can you.

Here I am several years later and I actually like it again. I like Valentine’s Day. I enjoy writing love themed posts for singles and couples alike. I’ve been doing a love series on Facebook live that’s been well received. I’ve found peace and joy again. Most importantly, I believe in love again. That’s probably the biggest miracle in it all. My hope has been restored.

So, beautiful reader, if you are hurting right now, be encouraged. You might be bracing yourself for the worst Valentine’s Day of your life. Maybe you’re anxious about what the day holds or how you might be triggered. I can assure you though that if you just breathe you will endure the moment. It might take time, but one day the pain will be gone and will be replaced with joy. And your heart will be so full of love (with or without a mate), that you’ll be moved to reach out and encourage others that they can make it through. I promise you. I’m living proof.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Nevertheless, she persisted

The middle of the night seems as good a time as any to offer a confession. Sometimes I notice I'll be going along fine. But every few months or so, I'll have an existential freakout. Maybe you know the kind, when you're plagued with thoughts about life and whether or not you'll be happy. Unfortunately, these freakouts aren't just the normal daytime ponderings. They are wake-me-up-at-3am panics about my future and if things will ever get easier.

Will I ever be one of those people who love my work?
Will I make a positive impact?
Will I ever payoff my debt and not struggle financially?
Will I ever have the love I long for?  
Will I ever leave a legacy?

There are lots of other variations, but you get the general theme. On these nights, I feel really scared and discouraged. I am viscerally aware of my own mortality. I think what scares me more than anything is passing on too soon with unfulfilled dreams still in my heart. It's tempting to stop trying. After all, why strive when there's no guarantee my efforts will be fruitful. Then this phrase...
This simple phrase originally intended as a rebuke is now my war cry. It is for a lot of women. It's a charge to keep going. Keep fighting. Keep pushing. Keep dreaming. Keep hoping. If the Lord is gracious, I could feasibly have another 50+ years of life. No one can stay on the struggle bus that long. Therefore, there's plenty of time to live, love, and passionately pursue purpose. 

As I close this out and try to grab a couple more hours of shut eye, I'll meditate on this phrase. At the end of my life, be it a couple of years from now or decades from now, I want it to be said of me that she faced some hard stuff. She had her hopes dashed and her heart broken a time or two. She wanted to give up many times and will her heart not to believe anymore. Nevertheless, she persisted and in doing so she inspired many and all of her dreams came true. Yeah. I like the sound of that.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Bae's great, but give me Jesus

I just had the most refreshing time at my church’s women’s conference this weekend. Normally, I’m a little iffy about faith-based women’s events because so often they promote traditional roles that don’t really suit me. They can also unintentionally make singles feel like second class citizens. This weekend wasn’t about that though. It was just women of all backgrounds coming together to recharge and renew.

What I loved most was the subtle message I kept hearing from the married women. It didn’t just come from the platform speakers either. It came from the women I chatted with casually during the breaks. The message was yeah, they loved their husbands and families, but nothing replaced quality time with God.

I found this to be a pleasant surprise. So often we’re conditioned to think that marriage is the finish line. It’s a huge build up with a lot of expectations and if it delays or doesn’t happen, women are left feeling deficient. And if you do cross the finish, often you're thinking to yourself, this is it? That's why I’m so grateful for the married women who have the courage to burst that bubble for singles every chance they get. Yes, it’s a blessing, blah, blah, blah. But, married women still feel lonely, still feel discouraged, still daydream about what might be, and still hunger for a love that goes beyond the physical. We all do.

As I reflect today and get ready to post my love-themed blogs for the month of February, I can’t help but meditate on the beauty and depth of the human heart…how the layers of our soul are vast and unsearchable…how our longings surpass what any other being can provide. It's okay because no other human was designed to completely satisfy us. Therefore, keep dreaming, hoping, and evolving, no matter your state in life. My guess is if you asked your partnered friends if it’s really as amazing as it seems, they’d share their secret too: I mean, yeah, bae’s great and all, but give me Jesus.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Every day non-attachment

Crap. This again. I’ve felt this before, many, many times. It’s an uncomfortable sensation with which I’m all too familiar. It feels like a bowl of hurt mixed with a swirl of anxiety topped off with disappointment- a sad sundae indeed. I feel it every time things don’t go my way. To be more specific, I feel it when I’m looking for one outcome and get another. When the feelings arise, I sigh to myself, a little frustrated for having let it happen again. Then, I remind myself to resume my practice, the practice of non-attachment.

Non-attachment is an Eastern term. I don't practice Buddhism, but the basic idea of it rings true for me. The concept of non-attachment comes from the idea that we create suffering for ourselves when we attach to people, things, results, or anything that’s temporal. Life is transient and we don’t have control over many things. When we think we do or we fixate on things going a certain way, then inevitably we feel frustrated, at best, crushed, at worst. That type of pain is needless and we can minimize it by understanding some things about attachment.

Ways we attach

Attachment is common and insidious. We attach when we make plans with friends. We attach when we have certain aspirations for our lives or even the lives of others. We attach when we keep texts, voicemails, and pictures from people. We attach when we double, triple, and quadruple check our phones to see if certain people liked our posts yet or if they appeared to get our messages. We attach when we aren’t just looking for a reply, but we want them to reply a certain way. Is this sounding familiar to anyone or am I alone in being Team Neurotic at times? If this is you, then you’ve undoubtedly experienced the sad sundae as well. Exhausting right, not to mention just really unpleasant. The only remedy for alleviating the pain is to detach.

Ways we detach

Detachment isn’t about becoming aloof or uncaring. You still might care deeply. You just forfeit your expectations. Detachment, then, might look like deleting messages rather than holding onto them. Whether they are positive or negative, you are ruminating on what’s already passed and can no longer be. Letting go allows you to be free. Another example is if you send a warm message to someone and they don’t reply or not the way you want. Let that be okay. Did you reach out for the response or simply to show love? Detachment might also be granting people room to be who they are. It can be hard to see people make certain choices. But love grants others that freedom; it doesn’t control or force. Control only creates suffering for you.

Think about this the next time you start to feel hurt or mad about something. Ask yourself if it’s possible you attached to a certain outcome and in doing so, created your own pain. It’s uncomfortable to admit, but when these feelings arise, they offer a gentle reminder that there’s more practice to be done. That’s a good thing.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Why I love vision board parties

Last year I started a lot of new traditions, one of them being hosting a vision board party. Over the weekend, I had another one and it was just as awesome as the first. If you are new to vision boards, they are basically just collages of what you hope to see in the new year. I mean, I suppose you don’t have to do them in the new year, but I do since folks are already in a goal setting mindset. There’s lots to love about this kind of gathering but I’ll share some of the highlights.

You get to see progress

Like I said, if this becomes an annual ritual for you too then you get to see what materialized in your
life. Last year, my focus was all about motivating others to better health, being an entrepreneur and gaining clients. Amazingly, each one of those things happened. Even if the vision board wasn’t in the forefront of my mind every day, simply setting certain intentions helped me focus my energy in those areas. Pretty cool.

You get to be creative

Another great thing about vision board parties is that you get to be creative- like scissors and glue creative. How many of us do that as adults? But anyone who witnessed the year of the adult coloring book phenomenon knows the therapeutic nature of crafts. It’s not only a fun throwback to childhood; it’s also a powerful way to construct the life you want to live.

You get to eat

Vision board parties are also a great excuse to eat. In fact, have you noticed how anytime you include snacks in something it becomes a party? Even the simple ritual of breaking bread, helps us feel strongly connected to one another.

You get to connect

Which leads me to the best part of all…vision board parties are about connection. For one, how often do people really hang out in each other’s homes anymore? We barely see our immediate families, more less host friends in our homes. Not only that, but vision board parties also invite you to share deeply about your dreams for the new year. Conversations like that are rare in casual, how-are-you texts with people.

Are you sold yet? I’m telling you; it’s really amazing. You can definitely do a vision board on your own, but parties are so much better. Grab some friends. Who cares if it’s not right at the beginning of the new year? Host a party just for the fun of it and see how pleasantly surprised you are when your visions actually start to manifest.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

4 Reasons I Quit the Gym this New Year

As we kick of a new year and people rush to gyms by the droves, I’m happy to say I’m avoiding the crowds because I cancelled my membership last month. That might seem surprising. After all, I’m a fitness professional. But there are several reasons it was the best decision for me and I thought I’d share in case you’re on the fence.

Let’s face it. Health clubs and studios cost money- anywhere from $10-$100 per month for individuals. If you go a few times a week, maybe it’s worth it. But if you don’t, you might find a better way to spend your coins. Before you commit to a gym, ask yourself if you have access to free options- fitness centers through your employer or perhaps your living community, for instance. You can get it in and save money.

A second deciding factor for me was how disconnected I felt at my gym. I didn’t realize how much I valued community. When I started my fitness journey several years ago, I didn’t mind going alone. But once I became a regular at the campus recreation center I joined, it kind of became like Cheers. You know…where everybody knows your name. I found that I missed that when I didn’t have it anymore at my large commercial gym. Anonymity is fine for some. But for me, I want to feel like I’m part of something.

Another unexpected evolution I noticed that I didn’t really care for was getting into the culture of comparison. Thanks to social media it’s common place to post hardcore workouts of yourself all in the name of inspiring others. What ends up happening though is I started to feel inadequate. If I can’t do pullups, squat or bench press my body weight, do handstands, etc. then I must not be an athlete. That’s not true, of course. But it started to feel true. I had lost a healthy perspective and the best way to get it back was to unplug from the culture of comparison.

A final factor for me quitting the gym was the lack of motivation I started to feel. Exercise was a chore. It was lonely because I didn’t have a workout partner. It was boring because I kept doing the same things over and over. Trainer or not, I’m not ashamed to say, I can’t think of anything duller than doing bicep curls. Therefore, I needed to get creative again and recapture the joy of movement. I found that I was way more motivated when I went to the park or hit the trail. I was even more consistent when just moving around my living room and finding new ways to grow in strength with or without equipment. For me, it was a no brainer. Quit the gym and do my own thing.

Am I done with gyms forever? No, probably not. But for now, I feel good about being able to just relax and enjoy movement again. I don’t have to feel guilty or obligated to go when I don’t want to, or feel like I’m wasting money. I can refocus on the reasons I move in the first place. It’s pretty freeing. I’m not knocking gyms. Some are really great. If you’re looking for one, you can still consider these areas as you decide. What do you value most? What will help you reach your goals? For me though, I decided this new year I needed to break away from the gym and just move.