Thursday, March 2, 2017

Byron Katie's Loving What Is, and finishing what I start

Do you know that feeling of beginning something in one room, thinking of another task, leaving off the first, going to the other room to begin another, and then...what was I doing again? Of course you do.

That's how it has been for me with, among other things, books. These last two years in the Pacific Northwest I have been living in a kind of book paradise. I have well-stocked libraries nearby that, aside from lending out wonderful literature, also have the occasional sale and even free book racks. Not to mention the plethora of used bookstores. I love it, really, and I also allow myelf to indulge in multiple tomes without finishing a single one. This feeling of starting and not finishing leaves me a bit scattered, and the pile of unread pages grows on my desk and nightstand.

Now comes the season when some consider what they might sacrifice until Easter. This year, I am inspired to do something rather than give something up - and that is to finish what I have started. Yesterday was Day One, and I finished reading Byron Katie's Loving What Is, in which she describes the process of using "The Work" to break down the stories we tell ourselves that cause us pain and suffering.

First exposed to Katie's The Work during my coaching certification program, I was intrigued to read her process in her own words and "get to know her" in a way. You see, I had learned about her in German, translated from English. Thanks to my local used bookstore, I stumbled across this book in the original English, and I found her voice to be loving, kind, and full of truth. She asks such simple questions and thus assists others in uprooting the stressful beliefs they have held for many years, sometimes even since early childhood (I was the least favorite child/My husband {or children or coworkers} should respect me more/This place would fall apart if I weren't here to keep everything in order). They often leave a session of The Work having gained humility by looking reality in the face rather than creating stories to explain it, stories that make reality more painful than it actually is.

Having used The Work myself in 2014, I know that it tends to crop up again and again for me, helping me to reevaluate situations and gain understanding of them, and my part in them. I think that it can play a remarkably helpful role in enhancing self-reflection and ultimately in improving our relationships with others. Katie often points out that when there is peace within us, there is peace outside of us.

What's next on the reading list? Everyday Blessings by Myla and Jon Kabbat-Zinn.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Mindfulness: Walking in the Snow

Winter this year has brought with it such ample snow to the Pacific Northwest that there have been many opportunities to contemplate its beauty, and how it reminds us to be mindful. It might inconvenience everyday comings and goings, but it has always struck me that it has the ability to create a blanket of light, peace, and tranquility wherever it settles. Being a mother of two small boys, my life is often filled with light, but it can come up short on peace and tranquility!

This afternoon, I found myself with a lapful of two little boys, each wanting hugs and help with their drawing, taping, and cutting of paper. They had come into my home office while I had sat at my computer, gathering my thoughts to write. My moment of creativity ended the instant theirs began, so I focused on helping them settle into a new activity of their choosing. And by being there right then at that moment, I could see my littlest one draw circles with his left hand - both of these skills were a surprise to me.

Later, I decided to get out and walk into town so that I could soak up a bit more of this snowy day before it melts away and becomes dark. Living in a small town that neither spreads salt, gravel, nor sand, I remembered again how snow teaches us to be mindful. Where sidewalks were still covered in freshly fallen snow, I could confidently crunch along with my boots; where slush had formed, I began taking baby steps to avoid slipping; where they were clear, I took longer strides. I listened to the sounds I made, observed the textures and changing light along the sidewalks and roads.

Mindfulness allows us to respond to and remain in the moment, and often, to recognize the beauty in it. We know that there is a time and place for everything. There are times to be creative, times to help others create, times to take big strides, and times to take smaller ones. Soon the snow will melt away and reveal the gifts the ground will offer; in the meantime, let's enjoy this!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Escaping the Waiting Place

Do you remember when the main character of Dr. Seuss' Oh, the Places You'll Go! arrives in the waiting place? Whenever I read this passage aloud to my children, it reminds me of how so many people are living their lives. Sometimes, you simply are in a waiting place - like when you are anticipating baby's arrival. Most times, though, there are just too many reasons for us to wait and get comfortable rather than making the changes in our lives that would allow us to thrive. 
You can get so confused
that you'll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place...

...for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or a No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig of curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.
Luckily, our main character escapes:
That's not for you!

Somehow you'll escape
all that waiting and staying.
You'll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing.

So what come's next? How do you get to those "bright places"? Do you have a roadmap? What would you like to achieve when you get there? What would be different about your life, your relationships, your health, if you reached it? (Let's set aside for the moment whether you actually consider boom bands an improvement.)

In coaching, most clients are still sitting in that waiting place. They might have an idea of where their bright place is, but they have not managed to find a way to reach it yet. Sometimes they know what they want to change but have not yet figured out how. Or, they have tried many times, and they just can't seem to be able to move forward. When using the ZRM® method (Zurich Resource Model by Drs. Maja Storch and Frank Krause), we tap into their deepest motivation, and often uncover values in the process. This is so important, because if you have been trying to reach a goal that (unconsciously) conflicts with your values, you most likely will never attain it. As you probably already know, that can be very frustrating! 

Based upon this new self-knowledge, you can then create realistic, attainable goals, and from there, strategies for approaching especially challenging situations. When done in a workshop, ZRM® draws upon the creativity and resources of all present. Each time I have experienced it, this has proven incredibly enriching and supportive for each participant. In coaching, I would work with you individually, joining in on the creative process and walking you through it so that in the end, you would have a motto and action plan.

To borrow the words of Dr. Seuss once more,
be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O'Shea,
you're off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So...get on your way!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

This is how a great coach listens!

In going through my training and coaching supplies, I ran into this inspiring and brilliant passage from Michael Ende's (author of The Neverending Story) Momo, written in 1973, all about listening:
What little Momo could do, was this: listen. That's nothing special, many readers might say, after all, everyone can listen.
But that would be a mistake. Really listening, the way Momo could, was something very few people could do. And the way Momo understood listening was completely unique.
When Momo listened, the dumb suddenly had clever thoughts. Not because she asked or said something that offered such clarity -- no, she simply sat there listening, concentrating fully and with great sympathy. All the while, she would watch the people with her big, round eyes, and they would feel great thoughts bubble up in them, thoughts that never would have occurred to them otherwise, thoughts she stuck in their minds.
When she listened, indecisive people suddenly understood exactly what they needed to do. The shy suddenly felt relaxed and full of courage. The unhappy and downtrodden became confident and happy. And if someone felt that his life was meaningless and a failure, that he was just another person amongst the millions, a person of no consequence whose life could be thrust aside just as any broken pot, if he visited Momo and told her all this, then even as he spoke, it would become clear to him that he was fundamentally wrong, that he was completely unique and indispensable to the world.
That's how Momo listened!

With the exception of feeling like someone else has "stuck" thoughts in your mind, this is exactly how you should feel when you have spent time with a great coach!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

How beautiful is motherhood, anyway?

Recently, a photo of a mother on my Facebook newsfeed, postpartum and wearing cotton mesh undies, got me thinking about the language we use surrounding childbirth and motherhood. She seemed to desire a raised awareness for how postpartum really is, including this intimate aspect. Amanda Bacon writes, "This is motherhood; it's raw, stunning, messy, and freaking hilarious all rolled into one."

I have noticed that not only does our culture tend to sugar coat reality (hence the notability of seeing a woman in this situation), there is a tendency to characterize childbirth as "amazing" or "beautiful". Or, to not talk about it in any detail at all - at least with expectant mothers. (After giving birth, you may hear a lot of details from other mothers!) I think that this language, or lack thereof, can lead to two scenarios. On the one hand, expectant mothers go into childbirth with unrealistic expectations. On the other, for those who have given birth and have not had an experience that warrants glowing reviews, there is additional disappointment.

The language we use to describe our experiences is crucial; it quite literally impacts how we think, feel, and act. You can try this out as an experiment the next time you have a negative thought about someone or something. Ask yourself afterwards how that thought affected you - your posture, your breathing, your temperature, your actions. You might be surprised.

Then along comes something as momentous as having a baby, something that is absolutely laden with pre-conceived notions and feelings. Perhaps there is joy, trepidation, ambivalence, fear, curiousity...the list goes on and on. I would like to create a space for this topic in which it is okay to feel all of these things, to have the entire spectrum of emotions. By making room not only for the baby but for the feelings surrounding having the baby, energy can be made available for the actual birth.

However amazing and beautiful childbirth can be, there might be times and places when those are the words farthest from your mind. By creating acceptance for this, by receiving reality in whatever form it comes, by creating a language surrounding this act that allows for each woman to find her own words and truth, I think that we can achieve this space. Childbirth simply is.

How would you like to talk about it?

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Welcome to Coaching for Mamas!

In my coaching work, I focus on creating a safe environment, asking pertinent questions, and enabling my client to create attainable goals that lead to unique changes and solutions. I hone in on strengths rather than weaknesses and know that there are no universal answers to the questions a client brings with her. Rather, I help my client discover her own individual skill set that will allow her to face challenges. I am acutely aware of the challenges facing parents in general and mothers in particular. In this blog, I would like to share with you what I am reading, thinking, and working on in regard to life as a Coach and as a Mama - and in return, I would absolutely love to hear your insights and questions!