Sunday, July 21, 2019

Throw Out Balance and Replace it With This

On the internet running through blog, Facebook, and IG posts or videos, there is always a wave of the same concepts of discussion each week. One person/business throws out an idea to talk about that week, and then many others (to figure out what they can discuss, post, or video that week) grab onto someone else's topic and put another spin on it. That's it. If you pay close attention to the posts, you will see what I am talking about. Take a look at the weekly discussions and see the uniformity in the topics of discussion, including the quotes that are posted. Perhaps it is coincidental. Perhaps it is collective energetic thought that brings this about. But, in most cases, I'm thinking it may be more about "What do I talk about this week?" and then grab an idea from someone else.

It is difficult to find weekly, let alone daily, topics to discuss and, at the same time, give good value to your audience. I get that. I've done the same thing. I'm guilty, but I'm not saying it's wrong. However, why is it that so many have to righteously compare or even put down the other persons version or perspective of that topic or term for that matter? Why must we compete by discrediting the other? We need to create awareness that there are different perspectives, but depending on where you are in life, each to our own. If I see the number 9 and you see the number 6 facing the opposite direction, are you wrong? Or am I wrong? Neither are.

Anyway, the topic I'm talking about is "balance." I posted a bit of a discussion on balance on Desiree Leigh You Tube Channel last week. So as a coach, what do I decide to do about the matter. I chose to unravel the word balance by defining it, understand where and why it originated, and then discuss with others what I mean by Throwing Out Balance and how we all have different perspectives.

Most of us should know that we all interpret words differently. How you define a concept, term, or statement for that matter, will be different than how I define it. Yes, for sure, we all pretty much know the definition from the dictionary, but that is not our complete interpretation of the word. How we interpret words goes far beyond the definition alone to include how we were raised, our belief systems, and our experiences, etc.

The definition of the concept balance as a noun is an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady; a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions. The definition as a verb is to keep or put in a steady position so that it does not fall; offset or compare the value of (one thing) with another. I understand the concept balance from a balance scale perspective: being equal, even distribution, and; a steady position.

Let's look at the work-life balance concept. The term work-life balance originated first in the UK and then in the USA in the late 1970's and early 1980's. It's a term used to describe the balance between work and time allocated for other aspects of life. However, being balanced and "striving" for balance are two different things! It's good to strive for balance between work and life. You don't want to spend each and everyday of your life working without having fun with family and friends, having a hobby, or exercising. What would life be like without venturing out into the water for a swim or up the mountain for a hike? And how about those amazing BBQ's with friends or vacations with family? Work takes focus and concentration which takes up a lot of energy. Having free time to do what you want allows you to relax, but it also replenishes and inspires you. When I began my business in 2008, I preached balance, but, even at that time, I didn't fully agree with that concept. It didn't sit right with me. There was something that was misleading about this perspective.

When I started my business, I spend hours in preparation with legal issues, blog posts, networking, educating myself, training, marketing, coaching, and being coached, for example. During this time, I had to sacrifice some of my time spent with friends and even family. When I went back to university at the age of 50, I spend countless hours in school and completing homework assignments. I did my best to preserve the concept of balance, but during exam season especially, I had to sacrifice time at the gym, out in nature, and with friends and family to get studies done so that I could achieve a high GPA. In my fourth year of university, I was able to finish writing my book and be at the gym and get trained 4 to 6 days per week to drop 60 pounds and strengthen my physique in less than six months. I sacrificed my personal life to get this done. I wasn't resentful about it because this is what I wanted out of life. These past couple and a half weeks, I had a date to complete the last edit to my manuscript. I sacrificed going to the gym and training for two hours a day and I ate some quick high fat foods so I could submit the book to the publisher. I was sitting for nearly 10 hours per day!

Balance is fictitious. We strive for balance, but balance will never be achieved. When we have deadlines to meet, a sick child or mother in the hospital, four exams in one week, or a fitness and body building competition, we are sacrificing something and true balance is not there. To achieve something great, you must go at it all the way, and if there are schedules to meet, it's your choice whether you want to tell yourself that you need balance to survive or burn through the fatigue and pain and meet your commitment full out. The term balance is about equality, even distribution, and a steady position. How is this even possible to achieve unless you are an accountant balancing your books. What's worse is we then criticize ourselves when we can't achieve balance by feeling guilty which leads to a lowered self concept or a lack of confidence and feeling badly about oneself.  Trying to achieve a sense of balance becomes detrimental to your health.

I believe what is MORE important to consider is harmony. When you are in a state of imbalance with work and life, strive for harmony, some tranquility and presence. Be mindful about your state and what you need in the moments and fill your mind, body, and spirit accordingly. This is the most robust way of staying in alignment with self and knowing what you need in those moments. Exam season is usually about 2 1/2 to 3 weeks and you may have  4 or 5 exams or even 7 and 8 if you are in the RN nursing program. Don't tell me that you should have balance during these times! I observed even the young students completely stressed, eating ravenously or not at all with sleepless nights and a lack of exercise to achieve their GPA. What about athletes in training? We sacrifice to achieve great things. We cannot sustain these sorts of stressors for long periods of time, but we are definitely not in a state of balance during them or the majority of time during our adult life. So throw out the term balance and instead replace it with harmony. 

Today, more than ever we need a sense of harmony, flow, and congruence, but the pressures of life, business, work, and family goals, for example, will never be balanced. One of these areas of life will always be tilted to one side. Good nutrition, regular exercise, and a calm present mind is good for health and we need to be as consistent as possible in our healthy habits, but to say that we need to be balanced is a fallacy.
I must thank Shanda Sumpter at Heartcore Business for influencing me. I've been following her for about three years now. She continues to reminder her viewers to stand for what they believe in and to make some noise around the topic. This may be a small thing (talking about balance), but all the little things that I keep addressing strengthens my voice to speak up about the larger things. It's called integrity. One of my core values that allows me to live in a state of authenticity and joy.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

The Missing Link to Mindfulness

During the past decade or so, we've had a craze with mindfulness. Everyone from hospitals to health spas and from schools to businesses are incorporating mindfulness as a practice to reduce stress and anxiety, to be more present, to be more productive, and to better cope with physical health and mental problems. I am definitely an advocate for mindfulness, but there is a missing link with what is going on in the marketing of this practice by many teachers.

Too many people are sensationalizing and glamorizing this practice and using it as a selling feature as an end-all to all of life's troubles. I've seen this happening for over a decade now and it's only getting worse. If you go back to many of my past blog posts, you will see the pattern that I'm talking about. The word mindfulness is being considered the end-all to life's turmoils. "If you simply practice mindfulness, your life will magically change."

I guess like anything else in this world, once a holistic approach is shown to provide inner wellness and it gains popularity because it's innovative and trendy to the West, a capitalist economy is going to latch on to it and do its best to milk it dry. We've already done this to the practice of yoga. Shakti Mhi from Prana Yoga College, a yoga teacher training program I completed a few years back, discussed this in detail. She ended up leaving North America because it was difficult for her to see so many yoga businesses manipulating the practice into a commodity to sell at outrageous prices. Not only that, but many people were getting socially conditioned to the trendy forms of yoga rather than truly understanding what it was naturally intended for. Fitness enthusiasts changed the practices intrinsic nature. North American yoga was no longer about connecting to your inner essence. It became a competition to see how one could twist their body into outrageous positions losing the heart of what yoga actually meant.

Is this happening to the practice of mindfulness? I'm not here to condemn; I'm here to create awareness and plant seeds for others to consider. Why? Because too many of us get caught up easily in the socialized system and take it as fact. Too many don't question what's going on in their own thoughts and feelings let alone in their environment.

Mindfulness is important to stay present to our essence. It is also important so that we stay in touch with the thoughts flowing in our head, to be aware of the emotions that rise in our body, and to be present to our environment at a deeper level. From this perspective, we are able to ask good questions, reflect deeply, move beyond what's called fear without resisting and remain unattached, while continuing to move through life with a sense of flow and harmony. Your shoulders are no longer at ear-level; they drop as you become more mindful and present.

However, mindfulness is not the cure all for self-centered living. It's your connection to your inner essence and higher source when done correctly. At the same time, it's a point to intersect. A call to action. As Marianne Williamson stated, "Evolved and involved." Yes, mindfulness is about self-connection and self-healing, but it is greater than that if you are truly listening. When you are connected, you realize you, yourself alone, are not at the center of healing or creation. Through mindfulness meditation, you receive information if you are open, receptive, and listening; if you are truly present and aware. Once the information is received, you then take courageous action because life is no longer about you. It is about the "bigger" picture. If you truly want to live an enlightened life, you lose your North American value of independence and live your life serving the bigger picture. This is the missing link to today's mindfulness and yoga practices. Many somehow think that if they simply practice mindfulness without action that all is well around them. Self-gain without conscious awareness of the bigger picture is rampant, and that's a North American capitalistic and consumerist value we need to break.     

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

How I lost 60 Pounds in 6 Months Without Starving Myself

There has been several turning points in my life, and no matter how many learning opportunities I get, I continue to be open and aware to receive more. Maybe some with more resistance than others. One turning point was when I fell ill back in 2009. My unknown illness made me contemplate my life and where it was headed, and what I needed to do to change things. And, so I did. I took action. A more recent turning point was in early 2018. While in the BScN program at UBC, I worked at various hospital units to gain clinical experience. Learning to do a thorough assessments was one of the most important aspects in clinical practice. In any event, over the course of the first three years in academic studies and practice, it became really bothersome to see how many people were sick but could have prevented some of their illnesses. What was also startling was that many were close to my age group.

I wasn't a young student. I was 50 when I reentered university. I started to think seriously about life in my early 40's, but more so when I was reaching 50. I think I actually began to panic about that time. I never really thought about getting old until then. Then it hit me. It hit me real hard. I put my business aside thinking that going back to school was the way to go. "If I only had a degree," I said to myself. "This degree." So on I went back to school to study for another degree.

I never considered discrimination would be an issue while attending school. Mind you, I didn't consider it at all at a university level. However, ageism was definitely present with some of the younger students. It was tough dealing with it, at times. Seeing their glares, sneers, and gossiping. They would talk as if I couldn't hear them with unjustly conclusions to why I was back in school. Oh yes, and every class discussion had some aspect of the "old people" (40's and 50's was old to them) and why they didn't understand new technology or whatever it was. I thought elementary and high school were difficult enough dealing with such tactics, but many young students entering university directly out of high school were no different. I had to consider, though, that they didn't have enough life experience to even understand what life was all about. Many truly had an aroma of arrogance and stood adamant about how well they did, though. I typically kept my thoughts to myself, but sometimes I wasn't so tolerant, so I'd occasionally share my annoyances with my therapist. I'd rant for a while and then he'd say something quite striking with his English tone and vocabulary and I'd start laughing. It was a wonderful way to let off steam!

Of course, not all students were like this - discriminating to the "older people." Some were amazingly appreciative of my experiences, knowledge, and wisdom, and inspiration and courage to go back to school, and I bonded very closely with less than a handful, and befriended quite a few more! As I get older, it is sad to experience ageism. I never thought it would happen to me. Yet, this statement "I never thought it would happen to me" is something important to think about.

So many patients I cared for were sick or dying from preventable illnesses. For example, obesity was a huge complication for individuals. It causes not only type 2 diabetes mellitus, it causes mobility and circulation problems which then causes joint problems and vascular diseases and kidney disease. Obesity causes breathing issues and heart issues. Another one is smoking. It causes chronic obstructive pulmonary disease which then leads to heart disease and/or cancer. I'll bet these people never thought it would happen to them, either. Get sick. I never considered I'd get old or sick. Now it was at the top of my list! It was difficult to care for these patients medically knowing that it didn't have to be this way. If only I could have educated these patients about 10 years ago to slow the process down. At the same time, I asked myself, "Why don't people try to change before it's too late. Before they get a serious complication or disease?" It is never that simple to say it is about eating the right foods, however. Many of us know what to do but simply don't do it.

But I wasn't any better. I knew I was overweight. I wasn't exercising. I ate fairly well. I just ate more than my body needed. My asthma was triggered a lot because I was out of shape. When I am inactive, my lungs become weak. I know this. I've lived with myself for years to understand how I operate. Sure, I blamed it on my lifestyle of being in school, and that was a big part of the reason for my inactivity and weight gain. I wanted a 4.0 GPA. At the same time, I was yo-yo dieting for about 10 years, so I couldn't blame it all on school. I had other underlying issues contributing to the problem.

Nonetheless, noticing so many ill patients with preventable illnesses made me seriously consider my own health. I didn't want to be one of them. Every time I would look at a chart, the last one was exactly my age with an extensive list of ailment, my eyes would pop. By the end of the third year in school, I got sick again. It was a pattern. Every year at the end of the second semester, I would be laid up in bed for 10 days to two weeks with the flu or some sort of a bug. But after the third year of this, it was different. After I recovered from the sickness, I, literally, had an argument with myself. Lucky no one else was in the house. I was talking and yelling back and forth with the two me's. In the end, I said, "If you don't do something about it, then shut the f*** up and live with it!"  That was the end of the conversation, of course after I got angry and then cried a bit. I got the camera out. I stripped down naked. I stood in front of a full length mirror, and I snapped pictures from the front, the back, and the sides. I knew that taking nude photos was the ONLY way to really get my attention! And, it did. It was easy for me to hide behind clothes and avoid the mirror. I would never undress in front of a mirror. Now, things were different. I forced myself to look at myself naked and with all the details.

I started the gym, but after two weeks of going, I knew that it wasn't enough. "How would this be any different," I said to myself, "than all the other times I joined a gym and eventually failed to go." I finally got the nerve to hire a coach to hold me accountable in July 2018 and the rest is history. I set a goal for six months, and I achieved it by Christmas 2018. I dropped 60 pounds! I started with 1200 calories and worked my way up to 2600 calories! I was disciplined with the routine, and I worked like a b**** in heat. I love my new body, and I love how I feel!

In the end, make a firm decision to make a change in your life. Set hard deadlines. Then play full out like you mean it! AND, get support to keep you on track and to get you through the rough times because there will be many of them.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

How My Coach Encouraged Sexual Healing

Why don't professionals talk about the importance of sexual healing for women and men that have been sexually abused as children and/or sexually assaulted? Its funny how many of us in society quickly come to the conclusion that all is well when we see these violated individuals appear to be coping and functioning well on a day to day basis. We talk about and do the research regarding the relationship between mental health and abuse a lot, speaking of depression and anxiety, but in much of the academic research publications, there is little to read about the process of sexual healing or how sexual abuse/assault has affected a woman's sexuality. I am not taking away the importance of mental health. However, why are we (e.g. health care professionals, researchers, and society) still afraid to talk about healthy sex and sexuality? It is a part of our mental and emotional health. How can we perceive that a woman's sexuality is in tact after chronic childhood sexual abuse, sexual assault, or intimate partner violence where rape has occurred? Rape doesn't even have to occur. It is the misogyny, the sexism, the sexualization, and the discrimination towards women that deteriorates a woman's sexuality and sensuality.

During my decade long healing process, I peeled off many layers with my therapist. Mindfully, layers came off one by one as we continued to go deeper and deeper until I got into the unknown or abyss as I like to call it. Here in the abyss, things began to surface that I wasn't even consciously aware of. Somatic experiences would arise at the most impromptu times. After 10 years of healing, though, I learned well how to mindfully pay attention to my body, my mind, my emotions, my thoughts, and my surroundings all at the same time, so that I could be totally present to what was happening to me and work on figuring out why it was happening or what it was that I needed. I needed to understand. I needed to connect the dots. At the same time, I needed these bodily experiences to rise so that they could be processed and I could let go of them. This is how you let go . . . by processing the pain, but that's another post.

Anyway, in the past year, I had incredible healing and inner growth, and I account it to a very special team I met while in the Okanagan. Well, more so to one very special person, my personal coach and trainer. However, the environment I was in supported my growth, too. It was healthy, uplifting, and encouraging. And, so I must include all the other special humans I was privileged to meet at the gym we all worked out together in.

I moved to the Okanagan of B.C. to go back to university to attain another degree. Life with my husband was deteriorating. He asked for a divorce. After everything we went through and how I devotedly stood by him with his alcoholism and everything that goes with it, he asked for the divorce. I, sort of, shut down my coaching business and went back to university a few hundred miles away. I chose the fear-based route, but my head was foggy and I was a mental and emotional mess to feel like I could still be a coach with integrity. How could I coach others when I was falling apart? I felt like a fraud. School seemed like the best way to go. In hindsight, I realized I made a mistake. At the same time, I didn't make a mistake at all because I met some incredible and unforgettable individuals that triggered some extraordinary healing and great accomplishments in my fourth year. The healing of my sexuality, a forbidden place that was filled with shame and hate, the loss of 60 pounds and the transformation of my physique, and the completion of my first book soon to be published about violence against women and children. 

After my third year in university, I gained weight, again, neglecting my physical health because I was striving for honor grades which I achieved, but at a cost. I constantly yo-yo'd up and down while in school! I was sacrificing my health for grades, and I was miserable and disappointed. Disappointed with the program and disappointed in my self. How could I let myself go this far? I used to take care of my health, watch my weight, and exercise regularly. I'd get to the gym by 5 am, jog the neighborhood mountains and trails, kayak, or walk the seawalls. I'd do it in the sunshine or rain. Nothing ever stopped me. But at some point, I stopped caring, and when I reflect, it wasn't that I didn't take care of my health for the three years while in school. It was much longer than that. It was when I lost my zest for life, my zest for living. I was surviving, existing; barely at the surface of the water. When I really think about it, it was about ten years ago.

I was doing well in my head space, establishing my coaching business, and doing a lot of continuing and self-education. I was on a role practicing meditation, visualizations, and continuously setting goals. I had two coaches at this point that I was working with. Life, even while living with an alcoholic, seemed to be on the upswing. I was hanging on to threads, though, and using positive psychology to get me through it. THEN I got sick. Really sick. And no doctor could figure out why. They considered Lyme disease but couldn't find the ring. They insisted it wasn't the breast implants. Finally, they chalked it up to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. After trying several alternative medicine methods, I gave up and I lost faith, but, in the process, I removed the Allergan textured breast implants which we now know affect the immune system causing a type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. After about three and a half years of having them in, I got sick.

I was trying my hardest to leave an abusive relationship. I was trying to get financially independent, and then I got sick. My body was like cement. I needed naps throughout the day. I could barely move. My body ached. It felt like I had a constant flu bug with a sore throat and swollen cervical lymph nodes. My groin and armpits were tender and painful. My stomach didn't work well. I was bloated and cramping. I couldn't exercise anymore. My blood sugar would drop when I tried to exercise. Headaches were constant. I thought I was doing everything right, and then I got sick. I was so angry. I didn't care anymore. I wasn't happy in my life and my relationship, and with the choices I continued to make.

But when I reflect even deeper, it wasn't all of that either. It was my sexuality. I didn't feel sexy. I felt ugly. I hated who I was. I hated seeing my shadow let alone seeing my reflection in the mirror. I had a husband that didn't touch me, that barely talked to me, and rarely looked at me. I could see the hate in his eyes. How could he hate me, I thought, after all the abuse I took from him. The table has turned. I feebly took the abuse and now it's my fault he had to quit drinking. That was our negotiated deal when we married, though - I don't say anything about his drinking, I care for the kids and household, and he pays the bills. At the time, it was the best deal for me at the time. At least I was safe (another story). But our verbal agreement was broken and someone had to be blamed.

Yet, it still goes deeper than all of this. I was brought up with a misogynist and chauvinistic father. I was surrounded by men sexualizing little girls and women. Sexism was predominant my entire life as it was for many girls and women. I am not alone in this. This is a systemic problem and it is affecting all women. At the same time, I experienced repetitive sexual abuse and sexual assaults. How could I like myself. I loathed myself. Sex was a chore or a duty to fulfill. It wasn't about intimacy and respect. It was about service. So, as I went through the healing process peeling off layer after layer, I finally got to the deeper issues buried in my body through somatic experiences, and it all started to happen when I made the decision to not only lose weight but to transform my body and took on physical training like I've never done before.

I took a step back and said to myself, "I'd give up a 4.0 grade-point average to attain better health" (but I actually maintained it to my surprise). I set goals and hard deadlines, and I played full out. I meant it. I just kept thinking about how I would feel if I gave up and quit on myself again. That was enough to keep me going. I chose a gym close to home, and I happened to fall into a trainer that 'looked' like he trained and meant it. As a coach and understanding the coaching process, I knew I needed help. This was my weak spot - food, exercise, and body image. I needed someone to hold me accountable and to get me through the rough edges.

Over time and continuously moving up to the next level of fitness and strength training, I started to have somatic experiences where unpleasant feelings would arise. Most of you probably already know that when you exercise, you need intense and deliberate focus to get through the training. It's tough and it hurts. The burn and fatigue are intense! So the more conditioned I got and the stronger I got, or the higher the weights I'd lift, the more I had to focus and the deeper my mental state got. At some point, I began my own plank self-challenge. The first time I did it at home, I had the most intense anger that rose up as I was holding the position. It came out of no where. I dropped after about six minutes and started sobbing uncontrollably. And, this was the start of my very deep healing. I took all somatic experiences to the conversations I had with my therapist. I talked it out contemplating all of his questions. One thing was for certain, I was ready to deal with the 'sex' part of my life, and it was time to let these bodily experiences rise so they could be processed and moved through. My mind tried to talk me out of it at times, but I didn't listen. I wasn't giving in to the mind chatter anymore! Writing my book allowed me to heal as well. By writing the most poignant and transformational events in my life with so such detailed information allowed me to get into the corners where darkness was hiding. And by physically training with such focus and intensity my body began to release.

My trainer was baffled to what I shared with him when it came to the somatic experiences, but what was cool about him is that no matter what I'd share, he listened and empathized every step of the way. I shared everything - the good, the bad, and the ugly! The more I shared, the more I was able to be myself. I opened up to who I was, not hiding any little piece of darkness. I didn't have to hide from him because I told him everything. Isn't that what we are supposed to do with our coaches? When they know every little detail of us, they know how to inspire and motivate us. They know what makes us tick. It is a two way street, this relationship, and he just made me want to tick with him. It was his demeanor, his attitude, his consideration, and his kindness. It was him speaking truthfully to me about me, what I can do, what I was made of, and what I was becoming. I've never had a coach like this before, and he was exactly what I needed because in the process of letting myself out from hiding, I felt my sexuality come alive. I felt sexy. I felt happy. I felt inspired to be and do more. I don't even know if he really knows what he's done for or to me. He was what I was praying for to bring out my aliveness and to feel the zest in life. I came to realize that there are amazing men out in the world that are respectful, loving, and affectionate. This man changed my way of being, brought out the best in me, and allowed me to see the world and myself differently. I am in deep gratitude for what he has given me and that I opened up to receive it.