Cultivating Intimacy & Connection

I have been reading a lot of non-fiction over the past year. I wrote an article on the blog a few months ago sharing financial resources that I enjoyed; and my most recent learning focus has been on relationships. As I explore the world of dating, I am particularly interested in expanding my knowledge of how to cultivate a strong and lasting connection; and I have been delving into all kinds of books that cover this vast topic.

Although I have already had a successful long-term relationship (21 years), it was not a healthy one towards the end. As I learn more from experts in the field, I can now identify many of the things that pulled us down, and I see an opportunity to do it better the next time around. A relationship is a living organism; it is something that requires daily care and tending, like a delicate plant. Love is not a destination. It is a way of being.

On that note, I have picked a few of my favourite books to share with you. They vary in topic and approach: from exploring early dating to maintaining an established relationship. They each offer a valuable perspective on the complex journey of being in relation with another human being. I can highly recommend them all.

Wired for Dating by Stan Tatkin

Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT, is the author of Wired for Love and Your Brain on Love, and coauthor of Love and War in Intimate Relationships. He has a clinical practice in Southern California, teaches at Kaiser Permanente, and is assistant clinical professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.

In his book, Wired for Dating, Tatkin uses neuroscience and attachment theory to understand dating couples. He categorizes readers into one of three attachment types: islands, whose predominant approach is “I can do it myself”; waves, with a more psychologically dependent nature; and anchors, with a balanced, stable approach. He then counsels readers on how to identify and interact with each of these personality groups while exploring how childhood influences shape one’s psyche.

Tatkin provides practical tools for navigating the emotional landscape of early dating, so your choices are based on fact not fiction. These include: developing “sherlocking” skills so you can really get to know your partner; asking your friends and family to provide honest and regular feedback; and learning how to foster a securely functioning relationship.

Secrets of a Passionate Marriage by David Schnarch, PhD

Dr. David Snarch is a licensed clinical psychologist and certified sex therapist. He directs the Marriage and Family Health Centre in Evergreen, Colorado. Secrets of a Passionate Marriage is structured around three main sections: the Basics; the Tools for Connection; and Observations on the Process.

This is not a “how-to” book on creating a passionate marriage. Rather, it is an insightful book which gives couples a guide to sexual fulfillment and intimacy via emotional maturation. The first section lays the groundwork for the book and acquaints the reader with an understanding of Schnarch’s theoretical model of sexual and emotional development. The second section, Tools for Connection, offers the reader specific examples of where and how to begin in making changes in your life and relationship. And in the final section, Observations on the Process, he reflects upon his own experiences as a clinical counselor and a married man.

Throughout the book, he provides thoughtful insights by:

  • Describing the process of differentiation in intimate relationships;
  • Discussing why emotional gridlock is a critical and necessary phase for a healthy relationship;
  • Recommending steps to achieving more passionate sex and a more intimate relationship;
  • Explaining how to “self-soothe” your anxieties and open to the full range of human eroticism;
  • Interpreting the psychology of sex.

The Mastery of Love by don Miguel Ruiz

don Miguel Ruiz is a renowned spiritual teacher and internationally bestselling author of the Toltec Wisdom Series, including The Four Agreements, The Mastery of Love, The Voice of Knowledge, The Four Agreements Companion Book, The Circle of Fire, and The Fifth Agreement. The Toltec Wisdom books have sold over 12 million copies, and have been published in 46 languages worldwide.

In The Mastery of Love, don Miguel Ruiz illuminates the fear-based beliefs and assumptions that undermine love and lead to suffering and drama in our relationships. Using insightful stories to bring his message to life, Ruiz shows us how to heal our emotional wounds, recover the freedom and joy that are our birthright, and restore the spirit of playfulness that is vital to loving relationships. The Mastery of Love includes information on:

• Why “domestication” and the “image of perfection” lead to self-rejection;
• The war of control that slowly destroys most relationships;
• Why we hunt for love in others, and how to capture the love inside us;
• How to finally accept and forgive ourselves and others.

“Happiness can only come from inside of you and is the result of your love. When you are aware that no one else can make you happy, and that happiness is the result of your love, this becomes the greatest mastery of the Toltec: the Mastery of Love.” ~ don Miguel Ruiz

Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John M. Gottman, PhD

World-renowned for his work on marital stability and divorce prediction, John Gottman has conducted 40 years of breakthrough research with thousands of couples. His work on marriage and parenting has earned him numerous major awards. Dr. Gottman was named one of the Top 10 Most Influential Therapists of the past quarter-century by the Psychotherapy Networker. He is the author or co-author of over 200 published academic articles and more than 40 books.

The Seven Principles

Gottman’s principles are research-based. He and his colleagues have studied hundreds of couples (including newlyweds and long-term couples); interviewed couples and videotaped their interactions; even measured their stress levels by checking their heart rate, sweat flow, blood pressure and immune function; and followed couples annually to see how their relationships have fared.

In The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, Gottman outlines the principles that build emotional intelligence and a successful relationship:

  1. Enhance Your Love Maps: Gottman encourages couples to get to know each other well. Asking questions is a way to meaningfully learn about your partner and to stay connected as you grow and change.
  2. Nurture Your Fondness and Admiration: Gottman contends that fondness and admiration are two of the most important elements in a satisfying and long-term relationship. By focusing on each other’s positive traits, you will build respect for one another, and it is easier to move past the more challenging aspects.
  3. Turn Toward Each Other Instead of Away: According to Gottman, “[Real-life romance] is kept alive each time you let your spouse know he or she is valued during the grind of everyday life.” This principle teaches that little things add up. Couples that turn toward each other have more in their emotional bank account. This account distinguishes happy marriages from miserable ones. Happy couples have more goodwill and positivity stored in their bank accounts: so when rough times hit, their emotional savings cushions them against conflict and stress.
  4. Let Your Partner Influence You: Happy couples work as a team. They consider each other’s perspective and feelings. They make decisions together and search out common ground. Letting your partner influence you is not about having one person hold the reins; it is about honouring and respecting each other’s role in the relationship.
  5. Solve Your Solvable Problems: Gottman says that there are two types of marital problems: easily resolved conflicts and perpetual, gridlocked issues. It is important for couples to determine which ones are which. Telling the difference can sometimes be tricky: “One way to identify solvable problems is that they seem less painful, gut-wrenching, or intense than perpetual, gridlocked ones.” Solvable problems are situational and there is no underlying, long-term issue.
  6. Overcome Gridlock: While some conflict can be solved through simple adjustments, many disagreements are related more to more fundamental differences. Finding a way to respectfully work through these more complex and difficult issues is the key to a healthy marriage.
  7. Create Shared Meaning: Building shared meaning together sustains the family culture; this is where traditions, rituals and rites of passage are found. There is a spiritual element underlying this principle; and it is the one that binds a family together.

Coming Home

In my journey towards inner healing, I have been learning from my friend and mentor Tamara about Dr. Richard Schwartz’s theory of the Internal Family System (outlined above). He believes that each person’s internal system is made up of a number of different roles, with only the core self reflecting our true inner essence. Although one can strongly identify with the other roles (manager, firefighter, exile), these are essentially learned responses or coping mechanisms, rather than a true reflection of self.

It is important to start to recognize which part of the self is coming forward and engaging at any one time. This provides the opportunity to observe, listen and tend to its needs rather than simply moving into automated response mode. You can identify when you are acting from your differentiated, core self if your behaviour meets the eight c’s: calm; curious; compassionate; connected; confident; creative; courageous; and clear.

In order to reconnect with the core, it is essential to start to cultivate awareness through the body. This is done through the act of nurturing a loving connection with yourself on a daily basis. You can achieve this by intentionally taking time to pause throughout the day, sit and feel the emotions that are coming up, without judgement or resistance. This helps you to start recognizing when care and attention is required, and offer it to yourself, before slipping into an automated pattern of habitual response.

Connected to this practice is the theory of healing the inner child. Many of the behaviours that manifest for the adult self are reflective of unresolved issues from childhood. Reparenting is the act of giving yourself what you did not receive when you were young. This concept is captured well in these short videos by the Holistic Psychologist:

In order to offer yourself the deep care and nurturing you require on a daily basis, it is helpful to adopt the four T’s: time; touch; tone; and tenderness.

  1. Time: Cultivate your relationship with yourself by making time to regularly check in. A good opportunity to do this is when you first wake up in the morning and when you are falling asleep at night.
  2. Touch: Place your hands on your body: heart and belly. This helps to establish a point of contact; and it bring your attention to the physical and energetic sensations that you are experiencing.
  3. Tone: Become mindful of your self-talk. How are you speaking to yourself? Try to adopt a gentle, soothing tone: think of how you would address a child or a close friend.
  4. Tenderness: Offer loving kindness to yourself, as you would any other. Tend to your needs. Recognize that when you are coming from a place of strength and wholeness, there is so much more that you can give to others.

You can start by exploring this menu of simple but powerful tactics outlined by the Holistic Psychologist. She recommends cultivating a daily practice of setting boundaries, building emotional awareness, offering self-care and exploring what give you joy.

Image courtesy of the Holistic Psychologist

Making Choices

With aging parents, the responsibility for care often falls upon one child; and it is usually the one who lives close by. In the case of my family, it is me. My siblings live away in other cities, some far and some near; I am the only one who lives in our home town. As the situation amplifies on the ground, I have been struggling with feelings of disappointment and frustration when help does not show up in a way that I hoped or expected.

It is interesting how the brain desperately wants to categorize things into right and wrong, black and white. In reality, there is often no clear right or wrong. There is just the choice that you make with its reverberations; and the choice that the other person makes, with its own separate impacts.

In a chaotic and stressful situation, it is easy to fall into the trap of trying to control the uncontrollable. To date, I have been trying to micro-manage the choices of my siblings, by asking for specific assistance. When it did not show up in that form, I have struggled. It recently dawned upon me that I need to get out of their lane and back into my own. My focus needs to be on tending to my own relationship with my parents and leaving my sisters them to do the same. How do I want to show up for this situation? What can I willingly contribute? What can I give from my heart? The rest is none of my business.

As a recovering over-functioner, I have slowly come to the realization that there will be gaps: things will fall through the cracks, or drop, from time to time. It is not on me to hold together all of the pieces. It is for me to hold onto my own pieces and leave the others to tend to their own. This does not mean that I will not continue to be there for my family members. It is just an acknowledgement that I am only responsible for delivering my own part. I cannot do it all and, in reality, no one is asking me to.

A Lotus Blooming

“If you feel lost, disappointed, hesitant, or weak, return to yourself, to who you are, here and now and when you get there, you will discover yourself, like a lotus flower in full bloom, even in a muddy pond, beautiful and strong.” ~ Masaru Emoto

This week, I have been paying attention to feelings of expansion and contraction. There are days where I feel open, joyful and a part of an energy greater than myself. I easily connect with other people and I make great progress with projects. I am creative and full of ideas. Everything feels streamlined and fluid. I experience ease and flow.

And then there are days where I feel small, vulnerable and afraid. I second guess every decision that I make. The world around feels large, frightening and menacing. I cannot see solutions. I am stuck in the mud and I cannot move forward.

There is little tangible difference between the two kinds of days in terms of form: I wake up; I go about my business; I return home; I sleep. The cycle of activity is essentially the same. It is the outside situation that changes and my perception along with it.

On the days where I feel expansive, things are going my way. There are little wins or moments to celebrate. I receive praise or acknowledgement. I am facing no obstacles. On the days where I feel contracted, I am reacting to a situation or a person that is unpleasant. There is an issue to be overcome. I am grappling with a challenge or inner battle. The common thread is that the outside factor controls the inside response.

Equanimity is defined as a state of psychological stability and composure which is undisturbed by experience of or exposure to emotions, pain, or other phenomena that may cause others to lose the balance of their mind. It refers to the power of observation and the ability to see without being caught by what you see. When well-developed, such power gives rise to a great sense of peace.

“If you let go a little, you will have a little peace. If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of peace. If you let go completely, you will know complete peace and freedom. Your struggles with the world will have come to an end.” ~ Ajahn Chah

In Buddhism, equanimity is a protection from the “eight worldly winds”: praise and blame, success and failure, pleasure and pain, fame and disrepute. Becoming attached to or excessively impacted by success, praise, fame or pleasure can cause suffering when life changes direction. 

There are seven qualities of mind that are recommended to help cultivate a sense of equanimity:

  1. Integrity: When you live and act with integrity, you feel confident about your actions and words, which results in the equanimity of blamelessness. 
  2. Faith: If you have confidence in your own abilities, then you are more likely to meet life’s challenges.
  3. A well-developed mind: Much as you can develop physical strength, balance, and stability of the body in a gym, so too can you develop strength, balance and stability of the mind. This is done through practices that cultivate calm, concentration and mindfulness, like meditation.
  4. A sense of well-being: It is easy to overlook the well-being that is easily available in daily life. Taking time to enjoy a cup of tea or time spent with your child can be a training in well-being.
  5. Wisdom: Wisdom is an important factor in learning to have an accepting awareness, to be present for whatever is happening without the mind or heart contracting or resisting. Honest awareness of what makes you imbalanced helps you to learn how to find balance.
  6. Insight: One of the primary insights is the nature of impermanence. In the deepest forms of this insight, it becomes apparent that things change quickly that you cannot hold onto anything: eventually the mind lets go of clinging. 
  7. Freedom: This comes as you begin to let go of reactive tendencies. 

There is power in knowing that I can break the cycle of expansion and contraction. I can live more intentionally and cultivate an inner peace and equanimity. The first step is to take on the role of observer in my daily life. What is triggering me and causing a reaction, both positive and negative? How can I start to sink beneath the waves, rather than riding on top of them? How can I locate my centre and stay grounded, despite what it taking place around me? These are some of the questions that I will be investigating in the weeks and months ahead.

Endless Summer

The transition from summer into fall can be a challenging time for families. The free and easy pace of the lazy summer months suddenly shifts a hectic school schedule. The days start to get shorter, darker and cooler. There is a general sense of sadness for the loss of freedom: from parents and children alike.

When we move from one season to another, it often changes the way that we engage with one another. In the summer, it is easy to pack up a picnic and head down to the beach for dinner or enjoy the extra hours of evening light playing at the park. There are road trip and camping trips to look forward to. We live in our flip-flops and swimming suits on the weekend. Everything generally feels fluid, happy and expansive.

In the fall, there is a shift into the “all business mode” of school and organized activities. We are suddenly confined by a rigid schedule and our time is spent shuttling family from school to work and from activity to activity. There is very little time for unstructured time, play and exploration.

This fall, I am trying to make a conscious effort to do things differently. The seasons will continue to evolve, and our family schedule with it; but there is an opportunity to be more intentional about how our time is spent together once this change occurs. It just requires time, attention and practice.

Here are some ideas for bringing the playfulness of summer into your fall routine:

Dance: Start the day with laughter and movement. As a part of your morning routine, put on some music and dance with your child. Take a few minutes to express yourself and move your body. Be silly and let loose. It is guaranteed to make you smile.

Eat: Sitting together at the table to enjoy a meal is proven to provide a wide range of social and health benefits for the whole family. It is so important to take the time to connect and communicate. To add a bit of fun, try hosting a picnic dinner on the floor of your living room once a week. Let everyone choose something to bring.

Play: It is easy for the evenings to become dominated by homework or television. Make the effort to schedule a screen-free family night at least once a week. Take turns to choose activities that you can share together, such as puzzles, board games or taking the dog for a long walk.

Explore: Be a tourist in your own town during the weekend and explore local parks and sites. You can choose a different adventure each time. There are great walks at Mt. Doug Park and Thetis Lake and fun monthly events at local museums, such as the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria and the Royal BC Museum.

Rest: Try not to over schedule your down time. Make time for rest and unstructured activity. Follow the summer time freedom model. It is too easy to fill up every moment with activities and chores. Leave a few hours during the evenings or weekends to read, play or nap.

It is easy to change seasons without a lot of thought for how it impacts your family. With a little bit of effort and practice, you can bring some summer fun with you as you transition into fall this year.

______________________________________________________________________________

This article was written for the October 2019 edition of Island Parent Magazine.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider signing up for my newsletter in the link below. I will send the best content right to your email, once a month. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Clean Cosmetics

I have posted a few times about my passion for clean cosmetics. Being informed about what you put onto your skin is essential for your overall health. It is also important for the environment. The ingredients contained in products are not only absorbed into your skin (the body’s largest organ); they are eventually washed down the drain and into the ocean. Our choices affect both us and the ecosystem. Animal welfare is also an important consideration, as many companies test their products on animals or use animal bi-products as ingredients.

I have recently come across a few new companies and products that I am excited to share with you. I have not been paid to endorse any of these items.

Loma Hair Care:

Loma products are Paraben, Sodium Chloride, Gluten and Soy free; and they use Sulfate-free cleansing. They are vegan friendly and they never test on animals. All of Loma’s packaging is recyclable. They require a minimum of 25% post-recyclable plastic in their bottles; and their manufacturing facility generates very little waste.

Loma sources, formulates, manufactures, and fills all of their own products in the United States. They investigate their ingredients and raw materials to ensure there are no traces of harmful materials.

My family uses their daily care duo. It is both gentle and effective. I purchase the large size bottles from my hair dresser and they last us close to four months; although it is an up-front investment (around $30 per litre bottle), it is good value as this quality product is very concentrated and you only need to use small amounts.

Forget Beauty:

My sisters introduced me to the Forget Beauty line. Designed by a holistic skin care expert, this Vancouver-based firm focuses on hydration as a key tactic of healthy aging. Forget Beauty is a natural cosmeceuticals product; they merge natural skin care, eastern herbs, and top-quality, cosmeceutical-grade actives. They are also cruelty free.

Ever since I was pregnant with my daughter, I have struggled with melasma, a hyper-pigmentation of the skin; and, as a forty-four year old woman, I am mindful of caring for my face as it ages. I recently started using Forget Beauty’s three layers of hydration and illumination kit to help with both of these issues.

The vitamin c powder included in this kit is designed to help revitalize the skin and improve overall skin tone; it is combined with the Awakened Hydrating Serum for application. The Nurtured Replenishing Oil and Immersed Nourishing Moisturizer assist with hydration and replenish tired skin. I am already noticing an improvement in the overall tone and brightness of my face, as well as a reduction in fine lines. Although purchasing the kit is an up front investment ($235), I expect the product to last me five to six months. New customers also receive 10% off on their first purchase from the site.

What clean products are you using and excited about? I would love to hear about them.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider signing up for my newsletter in the link below. I will send the best content right to your email, once a month. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Be Seen. Be Real. Be You.

“The opposite of belonging is fitting in. Belonging is belonging to yourself first. Speaking your truth. Telling you story. And never betraying yourself for other people. True belonging does not require you change who you are. It requires you to be who you are.” ~ Brené Brown

A few months ago, I wrote about how, after being in a relationship for over twenty years, I have started to explore dating again. I am investigating the unfamiliar territory of the online dating space: something that did not even exist when I was last single. There are so many of different web sites, it can be overwhelming and difficult to know where to start or what to do.

It is a loud and busy environment. It is also not set up for deep and meaningful encounters. Swipe left if you “like” someone and right if you do not. Capture yourself in a short and pithy bio, with posed photographs on the beach or hiking in the mountains. Be cute and alluring and most importantly…vanilla. In other words, reflect back to the other person what they want to see, not who you truly are.

One of the more challenging aspects of this experience so far is learning how to hold onto myself and my own unique sense of individuality in such a public forum. To be vulnerable. To truthfully state my interests and hobbies, even though they may be judged as quirky. To openly share my values and stand behind them, even if this results in alienating prospective partners.

It may sound strange that being open and honest is a challenge for me; but I spent a large part of my adolescence and young adulthood in hiding. I perfected the model of survival through adaptation. I was a master of reading the preferences of my peer group and then camouflaging myself to my environment. Being publicly exposed and potentially judged awakens my natural tendency to conceal who I really am. It brings our the primal desire to fit in and to be accepted: even at the sacrifice of my most authentic self.

The good thing is, this time around, I am able to spot the pattern and lean into the discomfort rather than lose connection to my true self. For me, it is less important to find a partner than to honour the person that I have become. In my heart, I know that the right person will show up at the right time. It may be that I encounter him online or through my social circles. It does not really matter. What remains key is that I allow myself to be vulnerable and truly seen throughout. The gifts that live on the other side of fear are far more valuable than gold, as vulnerably is the birthplace of love, belonging and joy.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider signing up for my newsletter in the link below. I will send the best content right to your email, once a month. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Black and white…more often grey

Woman Makes Heart With Hands In Sunset. Healthy People  Lifestyl

People and relationships are complex. The brain naturally seeks to sort things into black and white categories: good and bad, right and wrong. This simplistic view is almost never accurate. There are too many shades of grey in the world. It really boils down to interpretation and personal preference.

It is important to see a person for their whole self: to note both their generous and self-serving attributes. To step back and pay full attention, over a long period of time, to what they say and what they do. It is all to easy to focus on one behaviour or the other; to paint a simplistic picture. This is a “good” person. This is a “bad” one. Humans, however, are not one-dimensional creatures.

We all have the ability to be both generous and selfish. Thoughtful and thoughtless. Both. And. The level of acceptability boils down to your personal boundaries and values. Over time, it is possible to learn to navigate the complexity of the grey: to choose the people that you bring in close and those you purposefully keep at a distance. To do this skillfully requires a willingness to both see and accept people, with all of their layers of complexity, not just a simplistic version that you create.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider signing up for my newsletter in the link below. I will send the best content right to your email, once a month. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Soul Nourishment

As an independent parent, there is limited time for self-care. Much of my day is spent cooking, cleaning, working or driving; but as I have discovered over the years, if I do not make time for the things that nourish me, I cannot fully show up for my child, or anyone else for that matter.

I recently decided to start waking up a few hours earlier each morning, before my day gets started. This time is dedicated to reflection and self-care. I have a rule that I cannot do chores, email or social media. It is solely for activities that fill my heart with joy.

For me, this often includes meditation, reading, writing and movement (yoga or strength-based exercise). After a few weeks of practice, I have noticed a significant improvement in my overall sense of happiness and well-being.

The activities themselves are personal preferences, not the solution. When I show up every morning, it sends a signal to my body and soul that I value them; they deserve love and care. This is the magic. Every day, as I fill my tank before I get started, it not only helps me to sustain myself throughout the day; it prevents me from simply putting one foot in front of the other, and instead, it empowers me to gaze with hope towards the horizon.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider signing up for my newsletter in the link below. I will send the best content right to your email, once a month. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Strong not Skinny

For most of my youth and early adulthood, I struggled with body image issues. I consumed a lot of popular culture; and I wanted to emulate the women that I saw idealized in television, movies and magazines. I held myself to an impossible standard and I believed the lie that being skinny guaranteed access to happiness, love and success.

Over the years, I have learned that this is far from the truth. If you do not hold peace and acceptance inside, it does not matter what you look like on the outside. No one else can make you feel worthy and valuable. This belief needs to come from yourself.

As a forty-three year old woman, my focus is now on cultivating strength and joy within, rather than trying to fit into any external ideal of perfection. I aspire to be of service to my family, friends and community; and my aim is to age with grace and dignity. I can only do this if my body and mind are strong, fit and healthy.

Living in this stressful and busy world, it is extremely helpful to have daily practices that anchor and ground you. In order to do this, I follow a low inflammation diet and I practice a range of strength practices every week. Here are some of the ones that I enjoy the most:

Meditation: Meditation is a practice that spans across cultures and it takes many different forms. It is scientifically proven to reduce anxiety and depression, and improve attention, concentration, and overall psychological well-being. The basic premise is that you create the space for your feelings and thoughts, allowing them to come and go: observing them with curiosity and not hanging on to any one thing. The timing varies on what works for you. You can do it in as little as five minutes a day and in almost any place: while sitting, walking or washing the dishes. The key is to use your breath. To explore how to meditate, there are great free tools available, such as Headspace app.

Walking: I love to go for long walks. I walk for an hour or more, a few times a week, to get my heart rate up and to build muscle. I love being outside, breathing in the fresh air and spending time in nature. Even in an urban setting, there are often trees and greenery to enjoy. This is the time that I most enjoy listening to podcasts. Some of my favourites at the moment are: Rich Roll; Marie Forleo; The Tim Ferris Show; and Coffee Break French.

Yoga: Yoga is not only good for the body, it is also nourishing for the mind. It is an amazingly versatile practice, which offers everything from restorative to power-based options. You can do it in as little as ten to fifteen minutes a day. I love the idea of growing into a ninety year old woman who can bend over and touch her toes. Yoga is my anchor and I highly recommend that you explore it. The great thing is you no longer need to find a studio to try it out. There are some fantastic free resources online that you can now access at home. A few that I like are: Do Yoga With Me and Yoga with Adrienne.

Bootcamp / High Intensity Training (HIT): Muscle density is important for healthy aging. After age 30, you begin to lose as much as 3% to 5% per decade. Age-related muscle loss, called sarcopenia is one of the most important causes of functional decline and loss of independence in older adults. Less muscle means greater weakness and less mobility, both of which may increase the risk of falls and fractures. Building muscle does not mean bulking up; it is about creating an overall lean body structure and maintaining a healthy, stable body weight. I really enjoy taking a bootcamp class in my local community. The trainers are fantastic, kind and encouraging; and there are participants of all different ages and abilities. I am in and out of there in forty-five minutes; and the class is different and varied every day. If you do not want to go to the gym, there are also some great free resources online that you can follow at home, with a mat and some hand weights. I enjoy Christine Salus’ HIT workouts.

How you you like to stay strong? Tell me in the comments below.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider signing up for my newsletter in the link below. I will make sure you get all the best content delivered right to your email, once a month.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Befriending Resistance

In my effort to live a healthy and creative life, I am learning to become intimately familiar with resistance. The more I move towards living in alignment with my heart, the more resistance shows up. It stands with its hands on its hips, demanding to know: “Who do you think you are?” It pushes me down the safe road, rather than the one that requires risk and growth. Sometimes it is vocal, opinionated and yelling in my face. Other times it is quiet, stealth and whispering in my ear.

Resistance does not want me to exercise. It is angry every time that I put my runners on at lunch time. It puts its heels down and starfishes its arms out as I move towards the door. It tells me that I am too tired or I need to finish my work. It encourages me to go out with a friend instead or give myself a break. My saving grace in those moments is the knowledge that that I never ever regret going and I always regret missing it. This becomes my mantra as I push past it and go.

Resistance tells me that I deserve to eat chocolate cake and drink wine when I am out for dinner. It taunts me, it tells me to loosen up and enjoy myself more. It can be very persuasive and charming when it wants to be. It likes to think of itself as the life of the party. When I wake up in the middle night with an upset stomach or a racing heart, it is nowhere to be seen. It is these moments that I can finally hear my body speaking and I am reminded why I choose not to eat certain foods for my overall health and well-being.

Resistance is dismissive of my desire to write and be creative. It lays a heavy blanket of sleepiness on my shoulders and it gently encourages me to crawl back into bed for some extra sleep, rather than keep on trying. Or it laughs at my mistakes and awkward attempts, in an effort to shame me into giving up. It takes everything in my being to keep going: a trust in the knowledge that this is something I need to do. Even so, getting the words down on the page often feels like moving through mud. This is why it is so important to break the process into small, turtle steps so I can keep showing up. Once I find my flow, I am reminded of why I need to do this work, and how it fills me with joy.

As I become more familiar with resistance, I am realizing that it is not going anywhere soon. It is my constant companion on this journey; and the more I push against it, the harder the struggle becomes. I used to think that resistance got an automatic say in my actions and choices. Its voice is so loud and persuasive, it is hard not to give it a decision-making role. I am realizing now that this is not the case. I am ultimately in charge. The choice is up to me.

If resistance is here to stay, I have decided that the best tactic is to try and befriend it. It is attempting to provide me with information and play a role in my life. If I extend it some friendliness, it may be of assistance. I now see that the directions it provides me can be helpful. I just need to reconsider how I interpret them. When resistance shows up, it provides me a clear road map of where to go. I just need to take its advice and head in the opposite direction. It really is that simple.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider signing up for my monthly newsletter in the link below. 

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Boundaries of Love

When I was little, I was taught that love is defined through sacrifice and service. You give everything to others and meet their needs first. You agree to any request that is made of you (unless it is unsafe or dangerous). You do not put yourself first, as tending to your own needs is inherently selfish.

As I lived the first part of my life following these rules, I gave without limits. I said yes when I meant no. I tried to be the “perfect” friend, daughter, wife and colleague by being accommodating, generous and helpful. I gave and I gave and I gave; and it led me to a place of resentment, exhaustion and burn-out. I was an empty shell and I had nothing left.

Over the last few years, I have been exploring the importance of establishing healthy boundaries. A boundary is most simply defined as what is ok and what is not ok for me. It is about understanding where I end and you begin. It is not about building walls or creating separation from other people; it is simply about establishing and maintaining respect.

As Dr. Brené Brown discovered through her decades of research, people with the strongest boundaries are the most compassionate: as true generosity cannot exist without them. When they say yes, it is a true yes. When they say no, it is a true no. In considering a request, Brené asks herself: “What boundaries need to be in place for me to stay in my integrity and make the most generous assumptions about you?” Empathy is not feeling for somebody it is feeling with them. Empathy offered, along with boundaries, is infinite and sustaining. If you have done your work, and set clear boundaries, you can tread water forever.

Not sure if you have weak boundaries? Here are a few of the tell-tale signs: sharing too much too soon; feeling responsible for other peoples happiness; possessing an inability to say no for fear of rejection and abandonment; having a weak sense of identity; basing how you feel about yourself on how others treat you; feeling disempowered and allowing others to make decisions for you. This can lead to feeling of total powerless and a victim mentality. A red flag for crossing your boundary is using the word “should”. For example, “I should let my sister borrow my car, as my dad expects me to.”  

There are two kinds of boundaries:

Physical: Protecting your body and your sense of personal space.

Emotional: Protecting your self-esteem and your ability to separate your feelings from another person’s feelings. An emotional boundary allows you to be impacted by other peoples thoughts, feelings, actions, while still maintaining your own unique beliefs, behaviours and sense of responsibility. 

The process of learning to set a boundary is iterative. You do not master it in one day. It takes time, patience and practice. It also requires a lot of courage. It is scary to say no. In our society, we are encouraged to worry about what other people think of us and we generally want everyone to like us. This mind set, however, comes with a hefty price.

To set a boundary, state it clearly, calmly and with with as few words as possible. Do not justify your response or apologize. You do not need to convince anyone of anything. It is important to remember that you are not responsible for how the other person reacts to you setting a boundary. Acknowledge their feelings but do not take them on. Brené Brown suggests choosing a mantra. She personally uses: “Choose discomfort over resentment.” A mantra reminds you that you are making a choice that is critical for you well-being – even if it it not easy. 

As I practice setting boundaries more and more in my own life, I am getting clearer on what I can give, while still remaining in my integrity. This feels really good. Learning to set boundaries is truly an act of love: both for myself and others. It is not easy work but it is important. I am committed to practicing this new skill set so I can continue to give with my whole heart for many years to come.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider signing up for my monthly newsletter in the link below. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.
Dr. Terri Cole provides guidance for setting personal and emotional boundaries.