Don’t Lose Sight of Your Feet

Tomorrow I find out where I will be, live, and do next year. I, and thousands of other PhD Psychology students will log-in at 10AM to see if we have been chosen for internship-it’s APPIC Match Day. Akin to the ultimate “on-line dating swipe”, only this you commit to for a year, under contract. I may get one of three choices, and I may not get any of my choices. I could, once again, have to apply and wait on an interview then on a match. My fate tossed back into a pool of the unchosen. Even then, nothing is guaranteed, I may not match at all. Then there’s life. It could happen, and who knows what might be the consequence.
I think, in a different time I would have been riding the emotional roller coaster: losing sleep, grinding teeth, and fretting over what could or might be. I may have turned to medication to soothe my nerves and to help me sleep, or spent hours chewing off the ears of friends. I’m surprised, I’ve done none of that. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t have an anxious or spiraling moment. The day I made my rankings, I fell apart. It was a week when so many universal life forces merged, making me feel so small and insignificant. I felt as though life continued to move forward all around me, yet I stood there, attempting to wade through the quicksand. It would be easy to drown, if not for the support of friends and my deep sense of knowing, that this feeling is usually temporary. Noticing my distress, a dear friend called upon me to offer a space to process. He said, “You can’t get caught up in all of that, you know where you are. You are right here, now. Don’t lose sight of your feet. If you do that, you’re sure to fall.” This is being present, being mindful. It’s not easy.
Does this mean we can’t plan ahead? Does this mean we shouldn’t look back and learn from our mistakes? It means just this-be here now. Learn from history, but don’t beat yourself up over the stuff you can’t change. Be proactive in the now, put safeguards in place. Plan FOR the future, but don’t plan ON the future. When our focus is too dialed into future, we lose sight of our surroundings, of our feet. We close ourselves off to possibilities all around us. We are reminded time and time again that absolutely NOTHING in life is certain-besides right here and now. Be present, be aware, be open.
*Shout out to friends and family for sticking it through and supporting me on this wild and crazy rollercoaster of a ride to doctor. Especially to my circle, for making togetherness happen, so much love for you all.

Patience Practice.

We live in a world where fast isn’t fast enough. We get annoyed when we choose the “slow lane” at the grocery store, bank, or on the highway. We get impatient when the drive thru takes more than two minutes. We can order our meals, groceries, prescriptions, and therapy all on-line. When we call someone, we expect them to pick up. Social media allows us instant access to other people’s lives and sharing our lives with others.

All this said, it’s no surprise that we expect instant gratification in most everything we do. We’ve been conditioned to expect it easy, and to expect it now. Too many of us give up when the going gets tough instead of plowing through and sitting in the space of struggle. Why?

We have medicine and psychology giving us two vastly different messages. One-take this pill to help you feel better, sleep better, be better, focus better, eat better; and the other go to therapy, meditate, be mindful, try essential oils, be more self-aware, do yoga. The first is the quick fix, the second is the slow and practiced.

I’ll be the first to admit when I try something new, I want it to be easy, and to work right away. When it doesn’t happen, I feel frustrated or embarrassed. I don’t want to spend all of that time immersed in feelings of angst or frustration. I want to take the detour around all of the feelings and be happy with the end product. Like…a magic wand…Taadaaaa! Where’s my fairy godmother?

But, alas, this is not how life works. Sure, some are gifted with extraordinary talent, but most of us (and even those with gifts) must practice in order to facilitate growth. The pacing, roadblocks, struggle, and backwards steps can be torturous to our ego and our sense of control. The most important thing to remember when we find ourselves in those situations is to be mindful of the present. Take note of where you began, and where you are now, the progress might be slow, but there is progress-even if it’s difficult to notice at first. Perhaps you need to reassess or change your approach, but giving up is backwards movement. Failure and struggle lead to learning, and are important for building new connections in your brain that facilitate success.

Want to be better organized? Practice. Want to feel more confident? Practice. Want to be a better public speaker? Practice. Want to be a better listener? Practice. Want to ace that interview? Practice. Want to be a better reader? Practice. I think you get the point.

Eliminate these words from your vocabulary, “but I’m no good at…”, “I’ve never been…”, and “I can’t…”, or “It’s too hard..” Truth is, if you really want it, you’ll find a way. You’ll figure it out, and if you can’t, seek someone who can. Here’s the bottom line, when in pursuit of passion, goals, dreams…you’re bound to encounter challenge, struggle, or failure. You have two choices, you can avoid the challenge, back down, claim defeat, wave the white flag! OR, you can look challenge in the eye and embrace the strugs, show gratitude, acceptance, and see it for what it is… learning, growth, and process.

Socially Awkward New Year’s Greeting

Happy New Year my friends. I’ve seen so many posts recapping people’s 2017 (the good, the bad, and the ugly), and I promise not to do that. I do promise to share with you my experience, and offer you a tool to help you cope with the trials and tribulations that bubble up in 2018.  Today marked the first day of my daily mindfulness practice. I woke up feeling incredibly vulnerable and anxious, my chest felt as though it’s fibers had shrunk overnight. I haven’t felt this tense, and distraught in a very long time. Suddenly, all that I felt was true, could no longer be trusted. I’ve an idea of what caused this turbulence, one of the main culprits: Social Media. Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Bumble, Tinder, LinkedIn. They’re all major players in anxiety and depression these days. We feel compelled to notify the world of where, when, how, what, and who we are. We stare at our phones the minute we wake up to catch up on other people’s lives. We’re all little voyeurs, peeping in on other’s lives.

I don’t say this to evoke shame, guilt, or even defensiveness. I say this because I am just as guilty and don’t want these apps to have control over me anymore. These electronic devices and apps quite literally interrupt our brain pathways and create a dependence on checking likes, comments, and email messages. We ARE connected-it seems without us even knowing the half of it. This compulsion to check and respond disrupts our ability to engage in deep work and stay engaged in whatever it is we are doing. It has also been linked to depression and anxiety. This mechanism keeps us hooked by the release of dopamine (the feel-good hormone) every time we get likes, views, or comments.

Ever go through the cashier line and the attendant is checking their phone? What about having a meaningful conversation with a friend and they get a message and say, “hang on”, totally disrupting the moment you were having, when you return to the conversation it just isn’t the same. What about when you’re trying to be productive at work, but you keep getting texts and emails, and it ends up taking you twice as long as it would’ve if you’d not been disturbed. People get annoyed when we aren’t at their beck and call (I’ve known plenty of people whose bosses rely on them to check their email at home), or we see that our message has been read, but not responded to; we look to see what our ex did over the holidays. We use social media to hide behind our political affiliations and avoid real conversation about issues. We complain about our neighbors, coworkers, exes, spouses, and person in front of us at Starbucks.

Raise your hand if you’ve done any of these things? I’m right there with you. Social media has consumed our thoughts, lives, and has destroyed plenty of relationships. The average person spends about an hour each day on social media. AN HOUR A DAY!!! That’s an hour you could be connecting with people around you, spending time with your kids, talking instead of stalking, and being in the moment instead of being anxious or depressed.

Did you know that one of the developers of Facebook doesn’t even let his own family use social media? #Truth. On CNBC, Chamath Palihapitiya, said, “It’s easy to confuse truth and popularity, you can use money to amplify whatever you want people to believe, that what is popular is truthful and what is not popular may not be truthful.”

In his TedTalk on unwavering focus, Dandapani, a Hindu priest, calls this the distraction plague. He raises the idea that we are so practiced at distraction, that we are no longer in control or productive. He b believes that we can teach ourselves to more focused in our everyday life, by doing one thing at a time, we can be better at concentration and focus. He argues that technology isn’t distracting, only if we allow it to train us to distract us. If you engage with your phone, each time it chimes, you are allowing it to train you. In the five-hour work week, Tim Ferris offers the advice to only check email once a day, so you can focus your efforts on one task at a time.

How can we be more reliant on ourselves to control our state of mind and less dependent on social media? Mindfulness. Next time you’re talking to a friend, put your phone down. Turn it off. Silence. Leave it in your car. I promise, you won’t miss it after the initial urge’s fall away.

 

Photo cred: http://heragenda.com/is-social-media-altering-your-perception-of-reality/

Human Being in the New Year

The holiday season has wrapped up, and I’m just unwrapping. I’ve been drawn to the depths of my thoughts on life, love, and truth. Stepping outside of the student role for a week has had me reading, meditating, and thinking about where I want to be-live-do. I’ve been so wrapped up in “human doing” over being human (or a human being), it’s been difficult to be fully present, and aware of my intentions. I’ve noticed that the light of consciousness touches me, it seems, usually when looking backwards and no longer in the moment.

This year, we saw, a significant divide in our country regarding politics and values. I watched my Facebook feed become a place where people could hide behind the veil of social media, while spewing their words of hate. There was finger pointing towards those who don’t share the same ideas, and posts that were meant to intimidate and create conflict. I want to be clear here, I saw this on both sides, and I’m just as guilty.

I attempted to be involved in an on-line group, “hate not here”, where the intent was for people to come together to discuss their concerns and try to understand each other. This forum quickly transformed into an arena for bullying and disrespect. My faith in humanity dwindled and I began to see that no matter how hard any of them tried, neither side was budging, nor were they listening and processing. This happens quite often doesn’t it? We shut out the words that people speak when they’re values don’t match our own.

I recently had an interaction with someone that left me feeling enraged. I’d been holding these deep-rooted feelings about this person (let’s call him Jack) for months, stuck at the pit of my stomach. The moment Jack made a statement that, in my mind, illuminated the gaping hole in his defensive shield, I pounced. I pounced hard. I noticed my stead-fast patience falter, I became irritable, and the fibers of my filter expanded to allow larger grains of thoughts to escape by way of words and action. I sat stewing about past interactions and feeling justified in my own resentment. In my mind, Jack deserved the mental rocks I threw at him.

I whined, spewing criticisms and complaints to a dear person I know, who stopped me dead in my tracks, to say, “why are you letting this person consume your thoughts and energy?” He went on to say, “I’m not saying you can’t have your feelings, and I can relate to this, so I say this with compassion. It’s hard for me too. It’s just that, the more and more you let this consume you, the more you lose out on being present in other moments that matter.”

I paused, initially frustrated that there was no validation or commiseration. I thought, “just listen and tell me you understand, and I’m right to feel this way.” Often, when this happens, we shut off our ears and lose connection; but this time I chose to remain interested. This is difficult for us isn’t it? To listen to someone’s criticism or feedback without feeling defensive and shutting it all out, or planning our response instead of listening to what they have to say. We often revert into this tantrumming infant, “just love me and accept me!!!” I know I’m not alone in this. Our defensive spine bristles and shoots daggers at those who question our competence or behavior. We shut out the messenger, by disconnecting or by hurting back. The victim of our behavior, ultimately, is ourselves. We shut out those who care to take the risk of offering these nuggets of truth. I’m not suggesting we accept criticism aimed to hurt, rather that we be interested in what is said. I digress, this subject will be discussed at another time.

This pause in my stream of anger allowed me the space to wonder, “why do I let this bother me?”. James Baldwin said, “I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.” What was the source of pain for me? I do know, deeply. I have always struggled with feeling as though I needed to prove my intelligence and worthiness. I don’t know where this stems from, but I recognize its presence. Graduate school has chipped away at the poorly constructed self-image I have of being worthy, smart enough, and more importantly-it has given me fuel to question and doubt my own competence. I often felt as though his comments and questions were aimed at weakening my credibility and feelings of competence, instead of with the intention to show support. I realized, I’ve been comparing my knowledge, abilities, and skills to those of the Jack.

I was able to recognize other behaviors Jack demonstrated that ignited feelings of discomfort within me: I recalled the exchanges where his behavior was misunderstood, where he’d later confide in me, stating, “I don’t understand what happened.” It was clear, Jack just wanted to fit in and prove his competence, just as I did. Once I recognized this, I was able to see more clearly. I saw myself, in him, all that I hated about my own insecurities and need for validation. I was able to see his suffering-my suffering, the pain, intolerable.

Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, an Indian spiritual teacher and philosopher of Advaita (nondualism), is quoted to say:

“All you need is already within you, only you must approach yourself with reverence and love. Self-condemnation and self-distrust are grievous errors. Your constant flight from pain and search for pleasure is a sign of love you bear for yourself, all I plead with you is this: make love of yourself perfect. Deny yourself nothing — glue yourself infinity and eternity and discover that you do not need them; you are beyond.”

Here, he emphasizes compassion toward the self. When we feel compassion towards ourselves we are then able to feel compassion towards those around us. When we fail to see suffering in others, we fail to understand where hatred and anger resides. On a recent Ted Talk, in efforts to understand the driving hatred behind alt-right white supremacists, Theo E.J. Wilson came to the answer, “Why should I be hated for who I cannot help but be?”
He recognizes this feeling, for as a black man, he has been the target of hate, blanket prejudices, and stereotyping. Wilson goes on to discuss his own disbelief in his ability to have compassion for these folks who hated him. Compassion, different than acceptance and sympathy. Compassion is your spiritual duty as a human being, figuring out how you got to where you are, but sympathy is having pity for how you ended up. He can understand their fear and pain; which allows him to see more truth, allowing him to let go of the hatred and be more interested in the unhealed trauma on each side of the racial divide.

My point, we MUST have compassion for ourselves, so we can be more open to love and loving. When we hold hatred for others we hold hatred towards ourselves. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sitting here writing and thinking, this is so easy to say, but how do I practice this? How do I offer myself compassion for my flaws and insecurities, so that I can be open to receiving?

I often preach this notion of having self-compassion to my clients and friends, but have difficulty practicing on myself. I recently read, “How to Love”, by Thich Nhat Thanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist teacher. On page 64, he writes:
“To love is, first of all, to accept ourselves as we actually are. The first practice of love is to know oneself. The Pali word Metta means “loving kindness.” When we practice Metta Meditation, we see the conditions that have caused us to be the way we are; this makes it easy to accept ourselves, including our suffering and happiness. When we practice Metta Meditation, we touch our deepest aspirations. But the willingness and aspiration to love is not yet love. We have to look deeply, with all our being, in order to understand the object of our meditation. The practice of love meditation is not autosuggestion. We have to look deeply at our body, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness. We can observe how much peace, happiness, and lightness we already have. We can notice whether we are anxious about accidents or misfortunes, and how much anger, irritation, fear, anxiety or worry are still in us. As we become aware of the feelings in us, our self-understanding will deepen. We will see how our fears and lack of peace contribute to our unhappiness, and we will see the value of loving ourselves and cultivating a heart of self-compassion. Love will enter our thoughts, words, and actions.”

As I enter the new year, I don’t want to become a new me, but I do want to continue to better the me who is reflected to the world. So, I am inspired to practice what I preach. I have decided to engage in a daily meditation practice, to grow my mind, improve my tolerance, and to give myself the gift of self-compassion. I’ve chosen to focus on loving-kindness (Metta) and I invite you to join me in this daily practice. I’ll be documenting my reflections via this blog, please feel free to comment on your own experiences.

In this new year, I want to express gratitude to those who continue to show support, share love, and trust their vulnerability with me. To those who challenge my thinking and actions, thank you. Without all of you, I would not grow. I am truly honored by your presence in my life.

New Year, Not a New You

Their BAAAAAAAACK…. the ghosts of New Years’ Past. My Facebook feed is flooded with diet and fitness challenges, “transform your body and your mind, become a NEW YOU”. Cue the screeching tires sound effect. The record scratch. Wait, what???? A NEW YOU???? #SorryNotSorry, but I HATE this idea. I don’t believe that any of us have to become a NEW us. In fact, I’d argue that you are all pretty fantastic, amazing people, who probably need to develop some new habits and self-determination around making some changes. Changes that can be pretty effing difficult when you have a life that’s filled with responsibility and adulting. Chances are, if you’re entertaining the idea of a new you, you’ve already entertained the idea that there is something wrong with you. This makes you “self-aware” and is the source of initiative and motivation.

Many of us will start the New You challenge and fall off half way, or we won’t see immediate results, so we’ll dump the diet-thinking, “what’s the point”. I’m here to help move you toward your goals. You don’t need to become a NEW YOU to engage in healthier habits. You don’t need to become a NEW YOU to change your thinking about health and wellness. You don’t need to become a NEW YOU to feel better or be better. You’ve ALWAYS had that in you, you just need to rediscover and uncover all that is stopping you from getting there.

In order to make those changes, we need to start changing the way we think about things. How can we do this? Through mindfulness and knowledge. JUST knowing about nutrition, makes you more aware of your choices when you’re at the grocery store. Understanding how our emotions and thoughts impact our behavior, helps us become more aware when we are affected by anger, anxiety, ecstasy, grief, and a host of other emotions.

Your thoughts, emotions, and behavior can be changed. Research in neuroscience has shown that our brains are plastic, meaning, our intelligence is not fixed, it can improve and grow. Even more incredible, just KNOWING your brain is plastic and malleable, leads to more self-regulation and perseverance. Imagine the speed and strength of these transformations with the support of a coach, to guide you through the mental and physical exercise to maximize cognitive performance and self-regulation.

Stanford Professor, Carol Dweck, has studied the difference between successful people and unsuccessful people with the same talents. Her findings suggest that these people are largely divided by their mindset. That is, successful people believe that growth is possible, and are focused on the process of learning and growing. People in a growth mindset see effort as necessary for growth and learning, embrace challenges, see mistakes as learning opportunities, and appreciate and see feedback as useful. People in a fixed state believe that you are born with specific skills, and are focused on performance and not looking bad (ego strength). People in a fixed mindset don’t value effort and practice-they want things to be naturally easy, they back down or give up in the face of challenge or struggle, hate and are discouraged by mistakes made, and get defensive when offered feedback.

Mindfulness can help us reach our goals and change our fixed mindset to being a growth mindset.  The more we are mindful of our thoughts, the more we can change our behavior associated with those thoughts.

In the spirit of becoming the YOU that has always been there, I challenge you to give mindfulness a try. If your goal is to shed some body fat, practice mindful eating. Notice the texture, taste, and chewing of your food, the sensation of being hungry or full, and the emotions you’re experiencing just before and after eating. When you crave a snack, notice what you’re doing. Are you trying to avoid completing a difficult project, do you need a break, are you feeling stressed, or depressed, or anxious. Notice the feelings, acknowledge their presence, and understand the function of snacking. Practice mindful grocery shopping, when you feel the desire to purchase junk food, what are you feeling-do you really want it, or do you think the way it tastes will make you feel a certain way. Will you punish yourself afterwards for eating too much?

If your goal is to become more organized, practice mindfulness. Have a loose paper floating around, instead of sticking it in a pile for later, notice the feelings you’re having about it. Have a closet filled with clothing you haven’t worn in years, practice mindfulness-what’s holding you back from tossing the trends of yester-year?

I’d love to help you find the YOU that has always been there. Contact me for mind-body coaching and we’ll work together to design a plan that works best for you!

 

Balancing Act

When I originally set out on this journey, towards getting a PhD, I wanted it all-to build my body, my romantic relationship, and my mind. I soon realized, that, to do it all, meant sacrifice. Somethings had to give. My brain, deprived of nutrients, was foggy and ill equipped for the tasks required of learning and participating in academic discussion. I felt heavy and anxious, exhausted, but unable to sleep. I didn’t have a home, I was renting a room and spending most nights at my friend’s house (gratitude), on her couch. My brain forgetful and my mind in a state of unrest, I found myself walking in circles and feeling as though I had to put on this face of success. I. Could. Do. It. All. DAMN IT.

But I couldn’t. Unable to eat, think, or be me. I failed, or so I thought. I compared myself to those around me, on Facebook and Instagram. I wasn’t as smart as those in my classes, as disciplined as those I needed to compete against, or as competent as those I aimed to be. I sank deeper and deeper into who I thought I SHOULD be, and moved further away from who I really AM. The shoulds were always present-creating guilt and dissatisfaction. Misery. I met with my posing coach, who said, “you can do it, but at what cost? Why are you here?” She went on to emphasize the importance of self-care, ordering me to, “go home, eat an avocado, and soak in the tub with bath salts”. She allowed me to be human, to let go. It was that evening that I decided I liked myself a whole lot more than I liked trying to keep up the façade of perfectionism. I decided to give body building a rest. I had nothing to prove. I allowed myself to care only about my own progress and learning and not worry about how much I knew or didn’t know compared to the others. I asked for help.

A funny thing happens when we let go of the comparisons that weigh us down or amp us up; when we bare our souls and allow ourselves to be human and ask for help, or admit to mistakes. It’s simple. We don’t really fail or lose. We learn.

A funny thing happens when we let go of the comparisons that weigh us down or amp us up; when we bare our souls and allow ourselves to be human and ask for help, or admit to mistakes. It’s simple. We don’t really fail or lose. We learn.

We move towards that which serves us and we leave that which does not behind. This process is devastatingly beautiful, a tragedy of living life to the fullest, in pursuit of goals. The choices aren’t easy, but the depth of our knowing cannot be ignored. We leave behind relationships, give up the security and safety net of careers, and  begin to feel the life seep back into our souls. We feel again. The life that was once a dream, is now tangible. Looking back on the doubts and the insecurities, that still bubble up from time to time, we feel accomplishment and reward. We learn that in order to feel alive we have to be vulnerable, be focused, and be relentless in our pursuits.

This act, the act of finding balance in passion, is not an easy feat. Finding center, being clear, and most importantly, being easy on ourselves requires mindfulness. Mindfulness, like any other skill, requires practice. Mindfulness is a way of being. Being mindful means to notice the present moment, and allow yourself to feel without judgment. It is the act of just being. It has been proven to reduce stress, improve relationships, improve focus and attention, and reduce racing thoughts, worry, and anxiety.

What do you have to do?

Here are a few exercises to start with, courtesy of positivepsychology.com:

The Body Scan

Another popular exercise for practitioners of mindfulness is called the Body Scan. It requires very little in the way of props or tools, and it is also easily accessible for most beginners.

Would you like to follow a Body Scan right now? Try this 30 minute guided narrative by expert and founder of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Jon Kabat Zinn:

A typical Body Scan runs through each part of the body, paying special attention to the way each area feels, the scan usually moves as follows:

1. From toes of both feet to
2. The rest of the feet (top, bottom, ankle) then to the
3. Lower legs,
4. Knees,
5. Thighs and
6. Pelvic region- buttocks, tailbone, pelvic bone, genitals. From there moving to
7. The Abdomen, then the
8. Chest,
9. Lower back,
10. Upper back- back ribs & shoulder blades,
11. Hands (fingers, palms, backs, wrists),
12. Arms (lower, elbows, upper),
13. Neck,
14. Face and head (jaw, mouth, nose, cheeks, ears, eyes, forehead, scalp, back & top of head),

Mindful Seeing

For some, the absence of visual stimuli can feel stifling. After all, a healthy imagination does not come naturally to everyone. The activity of Mindful Seeing may be helpful to anyone who identifies with this feeling.

This is a simple exercise, requiring only a window with some kind of a view.

  • Step 1: find a space at a window where there are sights to be seen outside.
  • Step 2: look at everything there is to see.  Avoid labeling and categorizing what you see outside the window; instead of thinking “bird” or “stop sign”, try to notice the colors, the patterns, or the textures.
  • Step 3: pay attention to the movement of the grass or leaves in the breeze, notice the many different shapes present in this small segment of the world you can see.  Try to
    see the world outside the window from the perspective of someone unfamiliar with these sights.
  • Step 4: be observant, but not critical.  Be aware, but not fixated.
  • Step 5: if you become distracted, gently pull your mind away from those thoughts and notice a color or shape again to put you back in the right frame of mind.

The Mini-Mindfulness Exercise

Another great exercise to try if you are strapped for time is the mini-mindfulness exercise. In this lesson, there are only three steps:

  • Step 1: step out of  “automatic pilot” to bring awareness to what you doing, thinking, and sensing in this moment.

Try to pause and take a comfortable but dignified posture. Notice the thoughts that come up and acknowledge your feelings, but let them pass. Attune yourself to who you are and your current state.

  • Step 2: bring awareness to the breathing for six breaths or a minute.

The goal is to focus attention on one thing: your breath. Be aware of the movement of your body with each breath, of how your chest rises and falls, how your belly pushes in and out, and how your lungs expand and contract. Find the pattern of your breath and anchor yourself to the present with this awareness.

  • Step 3: expand awareness outward, first to the body then to the environment.

Allow the awareness to expand out to your body. Notice the sensations you are experiencing, like tightness, aches, or perhaps a lightness in your face or shoulders. Keep in mind your body as a whole, as a complete vessel for your inner self.

If you wish, you can then expand your awareness even further to the environment around you. Bring your attention to what is in front of you.  Notice the colors, shapes, patterns, and textures of the objects you can see. Be present in this moment, in your awareness of your surroundings.

 


#GOALCHASERS

Studies show that you’re more likely to accomplish goals when you put them in writing!

Guess WHAT????? I created a space for you to put your goals in writing and throw it out to the UNIVERSE!!!!

LET’S HEAR THEM!!!

Dear Destiny….

goal chaser girls

IMG_1742

Hi there from Cloud Nine….

I’ve been flying high here for about three months now and am just so glad you could join me. Life is fine and there are GOALS to MINE, Goals that are ALL MINE! The competitions are over, but the GRIND never ends! I have more than a lot on my plate; these days I’m carrying platters! I continue to be amazed by the generosity and kindness that has been thrown my way. There has been some hate, but without hate we wouldn’t know LOVE….

Memorial Day weekend marked the decoration day of remembrance of those who passed serving in our military. It also serves as a day to celebrate the life those gave so that we can have the freedom in which we are  able to live. LIVE-did you hear that-LIVE. Too often I hear people talking about what they would do if they hadn’t chosen X, Y, or Z as a career-(the safe path) or if they didn’t have kids they would….. or if they hadn’t had an accident they would… or if … if… if… if…

I’ve been thinking a lot about these what if… or if I never did this then I would do that, if I didn’t have a pension then I’d surely leave my job for… if I didn’t have to be poor I’d…..

Well here it is folks-the what if then section of your lives… what if you DID quit your job to pursue your passion? What if you did carve out an extra hour a day for the gym? What if you did leave the comfort of a pension or relationship? What if?????

I recently had an experience that blew my mind… It’s kind of private, but let’s just say that I recognized that if I had not been so afraid of rejection, failure, loss of a friend, or humility; I may have been in a very different position in life. The outcome of that experience is yet to be determined, but it ignited something within me that was powerful enough to say, “FORGET THE FEAR… IF YOU NEVER TRY, YOU WILL NEVER KNOW”. I decided right then to go after my life goals-thanking fear for protecting me, but asking it to respectfully step aside while I CHASE THIS GOAL. You see, I’ve been working as a school psychologist for the past 13 years-in a city school. I LOVE my students and my co-workers, but I don’t LOVE the system. I have wanted to go back to school to get my PhD so that I could have a greater impact on the system. Here’s the kicker-I never thought I was smart enough or that anyone would actually want me in their program-let alone actually fund my existence there. I was afraid that the loss of my salary would be too much-too scary to live off of ramen and rice and chicken again, too scary to not have my full pension, and what if I didn’t like it? I had this house and a mortgage, a car payment, and some other menial debt. Where will I live, how will I survive, what will I do after??? It was all very frightening-PLUS I have this family-my real family and my friend family- FRAMILY…  I love all of you so dearly-you just have no idea what kind of marks you’ve made on my heart and soul.

You know what I did? I said, “to hell with it… just TRY-you’ll figure it out”. I wrote to a bunch of program directors for school psychology and counseling psychology PhD programs and had a phone interview literally two days after my serendipitous encounter. The program director said, “you sound like a great candidate for our program, please apply.”  The next week I was taking the GREs, and three weeks later I was accepted at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I threw myself into my body building training and directed my focus on me-being selfish and telling people what I needed instead of tip toeing around and pleasing others. I felt like I was recapturing myself-holding myself in high regard. I declined parties, beer, and wine in order to chase the goal.

 

Two months later I stepped on stage and competed in my very first ever body building competition and the judges determined that my physique was worthy of a Pro-Card-which means that I can now compete as a professional in the DFAC circuit. In October I will have the chance to compete in the WORLD finals in Miami in October. The very next week I won my second competition. I was so shocked by it all… I really just wanted to place-winning was such a bonus!

 

Fast forward and rewind… yesterday I put a “FOR SALE” sign up in my front yard.

  •  in a couple months I will be packing up a U-Haul and driving 641 miles to Chapel Hill, NC
  • in four months I will be traveling to Miami to compete in DFAC World Finals
  • in three years I will be crossing the stage wearing a beautifully adorned hat, with new letters attached to my name PhD.

This has been such a joyous yet sad and scary experience… which makes it all the more exciting and vibrant. I FEEL like I’m living… This is LIFE and I am a GOAL CHASER…. (might even catch a few in the race). I finally understand what it means to “enjoy the journey”.

 

 

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Just a Position- Juxtaposition

Howdy y’all!!!! It’s Friday night and I feel alright… I’m sitting at home watching DFAC Pro-Miss Athletic World Finals Pre-Judging. I’m back in ACTION-Action boys Action.. I was so overwhelmed with work, food prepping, working out, and another thing… that needs to wait to be announced, but it’s pretty darn BIG… that I was unable to write. I had so many ideas flying around in this noggin of mine, but I simply couldn’t find the time to write! I thought about trying to bring my laptop and some sort of voice to text software to the gym so I could dictate a blog whilst pedaling away on the recumbent bike. The recumbent bike has been the bane of my existence these past few weeks, but I’ve actually come to LOVE the damn thing! It shaped my legs and sculpted my glutes into … drum roll please…… a DFAC PRO Miss Athletic Competitor!!!!  YES!!!! (Imagine me jumping up and down and doing some kind of silly dance with a huge sword in my hand)

This journey has been incredibly exciting and exhausting! I can only say that when I chose to get serious-the transformation happened so quickly!!!! I started in May of 2015 and by December there were very few visual signs of change. I was leaner, but no six pack… I hadn’t been totally strict and my diet was all over the place. As soon as I made the decision to stick to it and be consistent the fat began melting away. I had ABS… Quads…. and Hamstrings you could actually SEE! Start at the top and go clockwise:

Jess January TRansform

I owe much of this success to my absolutely phenomenal coach Kyle Glickman and to the people who were so supportive of me throughout the journey. He stuck it out with me and pushed me to the limits, challenged my drive, SAW AND BELIEVED in my potential and was just spot on with my diet and programming. I think I text him once a week to tell him how happy I am that we met! I owe much to Megan Cormack who introduced me to the world of posing and who was the seamstress behind my suit. She sewed and I blinged! She’s my sister in fit for sure!!! So inspirational and opening a FitBody Bootcamp in May. I know it wasn’t easy for all in my life-I sacrificed parties, dates, drinks, dinner, and going to the Adirondacks to stay with my family. I knew what I wanted and I went all in. I was lucky to find women at the gym who were all in too.. Tanya, Victoria, Megan, (both) Sarahs, Shannon, Liz, and Sofia. My co-workers endured the smell of fish, asparagus, and eggs for weeks on end with very few complaints. A special thanks to my mom who was here cleaning and walking the dogs for me-she was absolutely integral in the maintenance of my home. Thanks to Ewa for the amazing support and linking me up with Kyle-#life changer.  Thanks to those of you who gave advice and direction along the way. Thanks to Randi Guon-Nelson for meeting me at 7AM at her house to GLAM it up and Gilda Lucas for the 5 hour wax session!!! I love you all and couldn’t have done it without you-so honored to have you on my team!!!

So here are my tips on how to get there-

  1. Always weigh your food-don’t rely on your measuring cup-this is important
  2. Food prep for the week-the time you put in ahead of the game will save you so much time in the end. I made enough turkey and burger patties to last me the week
  3. Pre-cook your oats and rice-otherwise you’ll spend hours at the microwave waiting for them to cook-staring into that nuclear oven! Make a large batch-i.e. 4 servings of oatmeal- then transfer into a new bowl that you’ve tared-weigh and divide by however many servings you planned-I made 2 servings last night and divided by four because I knew I’d be eating 4  half servings throughout the day.
  4. Trader Joes is your friend- they have amazing things here- 99% fat free ground turkey, Alaskan Cod, 96% fat free ground beef, Pot Roast that’s only 3 g fat/serving, Shrimp stir fry and more!!! They also have AWESOME spices and salts for only $1.99 each- garlic salt, 21 season salute, and everyday seasoning… .my favorites! I just discovered the coffee BBQ rub-put that on your salmon and sweet potatoes-YUMMMM They also have spray coconut oil and olive oil-game changers
  5. Get a mandolin slicer for your sweet potatoes and a grill pan/grill griddle
  6. Shop at BJs or Walmart for your egg beaters-make sure you get egg beaters that have 0 carbs. I’ve found that egg beaters are way easier to cook than the carton egg whites.
  7. Kim’s Deli pops at Wegmans are great 2 Carb rice cakes that can fill the gaps. Same with the coco pops
  8. Vitamins… take your vitamins and aminos! I look forward to my isotonix morning vitamins, OPC-3, and my greens! The Optimum Nutrition Amino Energy-Mocha– another game changer… LOVE
  9. Wake up early and get to it… JUST DO IT.. may be difficult in the beginning, but then your body gets used to it and it becomes habit!
  10. What’s your goal? Be specific so you can focus and create a mantra around it…
  11. Ask for help-you’d be surprised at how many people are on your team! Love my circle!
  12. LASTLY… Be humble… be grateful… be motivated by the hard work of your competition and those around you…

Keep your eyes peeled for the NEXT POST: #GOALCHASER

This is going to be a game changer….

Bust a Move to 38 calorie brownies

brownieOriginally written: 3/1/2016

This body building adventure has sure gotten complicated. I thought I would just eat healthy, move more, and then saunter on stage in a skimpy bikini whilst sporting a fake tan and some even faker costume jewels. Much to my surprise, THIS IS NOT TRUE! My body building coach, Kyle Glickman, has informed me that we can go two ways here… fitness or figure, so I need to be prepared for both. Posing coach, Megan Cormack, has informed me that the Athletic category means I have to perform a routine-BUST IT. The mere thought of having to memorize some moves on stage puts me into a new category of anxious! My eyes bug out of my head and I start mumbling nonsense. After I take a few deep breaths I am calm and a new sense of confidence washes over… YOU CAN DO THIS. I didn’t accept this challenge just to be scared away by some silly steps and moves, so bring it….

 

Megan’s first question to me: “What do you want your music to be?”

“What do I want my music to be??? What do I want my music to be????” I thought. “I don’t even know what I want my moves to be, much less my music!” I spent the better part of the day listening to snippets of popular songs and some chill beats that I like, but really have no clue. This was a job for the protein brownie. Yup-I simply needed to eat a decadent protein brownie and I’d find my music. I’ve already made a few batches of this brownie recipe that I modified from Pinterest. I found that they’re much better when made in cupcake tins! Here’s my version of the 38 Calorie Brownie:

Ingredients
  • 1 container light and fit greek yogurt- I used toasted coconut-this also works with plain fat free greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup Silk Unsweetened Almond Milk-30 cals
  • ½ cup Cocoa powder (I like to use the special dark)
  • 1/3 cup Old fashioned rolled oats (like Quaker)-grind these into an oat flour first
  • 1 scoop chocolate whey protein powder
  • 1/4 cup Truvia Baking Blend (or any natural/stevia based sweetener that pours like sugar)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/3 cup canned pumpkin (NOT PUMPKIN PIE)
  • 10 g Nestles mini morsels
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Combine all ingredients (except chocolate morsels) into a food processor or a blender, and blend until smooth (about 1 minute).
  3. Fold in chocolate chip morsels
  4. Pour into lined muffin tin-should fill it half way
  5. Bake for about 10-15 minutes. Check with a toothpick to make sure middle is cooked. Wait until fully cooled about 10-15 minutes before eating! I’m so impulsive with my food I always end up burning the roof of my mouth!

 

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