Category Archives: Life Coaching

Practice Makes Most Nearly Perfect

Very First Painting! ~ Art is lifeWhat do a medical doctor, an attorney, a yoga teacher, a life coach have in common?  They all practice their profession and their professional sphere is known as a “practice.” Doctors practice medicine, lawyers practice representing clients’ interests around the law, yoga teachers practice yoga (and recommend that you do too), and life coaches practice helping others through coaching, and using their own tools and techniques (and coaches) to enhance their own lives. A doctor who finished medical school but has no medical practice is only a doctor by name.  It is not the completion of an education in a certain field that makes one a professional in the field; practice, as it turns out, is what transforms a person from being a student to being a master professional. That transition can be challenging and is sure to make the practitioner very (even, excruciatingly) uncomfortable at times.

I remember the first time I coached a client who was a complete stranger to me.  I was terrified that I’d do it wrong, and that she would just KNOW I wasn’t *really* a coach yet.  I had all kinds of “practice hours” under my belt, having studied a LOT, written a LOT, and coached for hours back and forth with my student partner and with a variety of friends, family, and acquaintances who were gracious enough to help me by showing up for coaching while I chose which tools and specific methods I needed to hone and work on for myself.  But when that first cold call came in and she set an appointment and I had to show up at my office and PRACTICE FOR REAL, it felt like I was walking into a comprehensive exam unprepared.  Naked.  Just like those dreams that show up in silly Hollywood movies.  Every doubt in myself I had ever had showed up to greet me like old “frenemies”.

But we sat down together and I helped her (and myself) clear the space by taking a few long, slow deep breaths.  I asked her how she was doing and what brought her to coaching.  She began to tell me her story, and we were off!  After a few minutes of listening deeply to her experience, I was able to focus on my client and her story and needs, and completely disconnect from all that internal anxiety and doubt I was feeling about my “wet behind the ears” self.  I realized that using the most basic of coaching skills, full-bodied listening and empathetic understanding, was helping me focus on her and allowed my own insecurity to fade for a while.  My client would pause for a moment, and I would carefully summarize what I’d understood her to say, which she would either agree I’d understood correctly or she’d explain a little more or even correct her own narrative, realizing that what she said and what she’d meant were a little different.  The coaching dance continued, and the next thing I knew, the session was over, my client felt a great deal of relief made possible by my staying deeply connected to her and helping her feel completely HEARD, ACKNOWLEDGED, and UNDERSTOOD, and my anxiety about messing it all up faded away as it became clear to me that all of the tools and methods are important, but none more important than staying 100% present, focused, and attuned to the person who is there for coaching.

That was my first real practice.  That is when I realized why professionals practice their profession.

Perfectionism impedes learningI ended up working with that first client for several months around a specific set of troublesome things happening in her life at that time.  I helped her define the full content and scope of the problem.  I helped her learn a handful of tools that decreased her daily mental and emotional stress load so that she could better manage both herself and her family’s needs and desires.  I helped her create a specific goal, and we worked together to create a realistic plan of action to get her from where she was to where she wanted to be with that goal.  And she continued coaching along the way to help re-frame her own thinking and discover new strategies to get over, under, around, and through the various obstacles that kept cropping up in her path towards the goal.  Coaching became a practice in and of itself for me through this first “stranger” client, and soon I was working with more and more “strangers” with greater ease, less doubt about myself and my role, and more confidence in both coaching itself and myself as a coach.

That first client was nearly a decade ago, and I’ve now had the honor of helping hundreds of strangers coast to coast in the USA, and around the world as far away as China, the UK, and Australia.  My practice has become stronger, and I have become stronger because of my practice.  The academic learning element continues as I am always taking on new challenges in terms of continuing education and reading the latest news and texts on topics like neuroscience research, attachment theory, healing from trauma, and recovering from grief and loss.  As I learn new methods, and try them out with clients for the first time, I still feel a little of that initial hesitation and doubt, and am humbled to realize that no matter how much I practice, there is always more to learn and ways to improve.  I now have to actively cultivate a beginner’s mind as it’s easy to fall into the “comfortable” patterns of practice, which may or may not be of highest service to the specific client in front of me.

Perfect is an illusion, but practice absolutely makes most nearly perfect.

And we all probably remember how painful the process can be in transitioning from learning something in theory to practicing it in reality, whether that something is what one might do as a career or just as a hobby.  There are steps, both conscious and unconscious, involved in moving from student to novice practitioner to master practitioner.

So next time you embark on a learning adventure or start doing something that you KNOW you KNOW, but haven’t had a lot of “real world” practice with, just remember:  all that doubt and anxiety is part of the process.  Just start practicing, and stay open to both successes and mistakes from which you can learn, adjust, and grow.  And trust that the more you practice, the more nearly perfect you’ll be!  Perfection itself *is* an illusion, but we can all strive towards confidence coupled with the humility of being a human.  If we were perfect, we wouldn’t be human.

Namaste.

Summertime and the Living is Easy – Sometimes

Orchids in bloomIf someone asked me what my favorite thing about summertime is, I would have a hard time narrowing my answer down to just ONE thing.  I absolutely love to swim, so swimming ranks high on the list.  I truly enjoy eating fresh vegetables from the garden and farmer’s markets, and summertime food prep on the grill is pretty sweet too.  And then there are the vacations:  my own annual scalloping vacation is in the heat of the summer, lots of friends and family come to visit to take advantage of the outdoor fun times in the Appalachian Mountains, and I get to hear excitement and joy from clients as they look forward to their own breaks from the day-to-day. Summer also just feels like it’s teeming with life and energy runs high and the long days yield a lot of productivity, but still leave time for some rest and a nap in a hammock. The only thing about summertime, especially in the American southland, that gets a thumbs down from me is the bugs that are just incessant. (But that’s what lemon, rosemary, and eucalyptus essential oils are for!)

Summertime is so sweet that it’s got its own anthem sung by the one and only Nina Simone, who reminds us in the soulfulness of her voice that life is long and complicated and filled with a full spectrum of emotions all the time, even in the summertime when the grass is high and the living is easy. And it is emotion, really, that’s on my mind this morning as I’m enjoying mist on the mountain over a rich cup of coffee.  I’ve been doing a lot of self-inquiry into my own emotional world while doing a lot of reading and listening to lectures and podcasts on the latest developments in the neuroscientific world around emotions, the brain, and the nervous system. There are a multitude of things I’d like to write about over the next few months, but today I am simply thinking about just how IMPORTANT emotions are and therefore how even more important it is that we all learn to discern what emotions we are feeling, especially when we dislike or disapprove of our own behavior or reaction to another person.

I went to bed far later than I meant to last night, as I got distracted with screens.  (Shocking, I know.  Who does that?) I was tired long before I stopped doing “just one more thing,” and turned everything off and got in bed, and by the time I did actually stop and get in bed, I was totally exhausted.  How many of you do this on the regular and find yourself feeling totally drained?  And how do you feel when you wake up after a too late night of distractions?

I realized last night that my emotions had gone flat because my “executive functions,” i.e., all that decision-making and task tracking and over-riding biological urges that tell you to go to sleep were zapped out entirely and my actions were absolutely on auto-pilot. This also meant that when I got in bed and my two sweet cats came into my bedroom to do their nightly power struggle ritual as to which one sleeps at my feet and which one sleeps near my head, I was at first mildly irritated.  After about 2 minutes, I was annoyed and my heart rate was increasing. After about 3 more minutes, I was angry and exhausted and weepy and I made both cats leave the room and sort themselves out somewhere else.  I had to just be still in savasana (yoga corpse pose) and do some calming meditation to ratchet my EMOTIONS back down to just tired and ready for bed.

So, it’s not that my emotions were flat beforehand, it’s that my brain and nervous system were both over-tired and over-stimulated, and my emotions were on a hair-trigger just waiting for some stimulus.  My response to that stimulus, which was from fuzzy creatures that I love dearly, was NOT loving.  Because when our nervous system is over-tired and over-stimulated, the emotions that tend to be triggered are not the sweet ones.

I had the luxury this morning of sleeping in without worries of an alarm clock disrupting the perfect sleep cycle, and was able to sleep soundly, for the most part.  When I woke up today, I immediately felt refreshed, happy to greet a Friday morning before a holiday, grateful for the rain that made sleep so blissful, and then super guilty for being so mean to my kitty cats. Thankfully, cats are more forgiving than people thanks to their smooth brains and infinite superiority complex.  But how often do our hair-trigger emotions lash out in ways that are way more destructive than my mild example above?  And just how much control do we have over such outbursts?

The answer is that most of us have precious little control over our emotions and lightning fast behavioral responses by the time we reach the end of a full day.

Earlier in the day, we have a lot more control, as long as we’ve had enough sleep and fuel for the most expensive part of our nervous system:  the big fancy brain and its prefrontal cortex. When we are feeling well rested, well fed, and in relatively low stress and positive mood, everything about our emotional world and the behavior it triggers is way more conducive to positive outcomes in our relationships and interactions with other people (and cats).

None of this is a revelation, nor is it revolutionary.  However, what I propose we all make time to do during the course of our overflowing days might be.  The world would be a much calmer, safer, happier place if we all took time outs for some restoration DURING our busy days instead of always running ourselves down to the cell phone battery equivalent of that 2% red line and then it just dies and the screen goes dark.

How do you do that?  Here’s a few things that I use, when I’m not trying to be super-overachiever-do-all-the-things-at-once woman and forget to take good care of my brain during busy days:

  1. Schedule a short nap or at least a “resting your eyes” time during your day (21 minutes is perfect and can leave you feeling refreshed without feeling “groggy” and this method works best on a day when you really did get enough sleep the night before.)
  2. Take short walks (inside or outside, though outside is best when possible) about every 2-3 hours throughout your day.  Just getting up and moving briskly for 5-10 minutes can really help re-set your brain.
  3. Do “cross crawls” for 30-60 seconds 5-6 times a day to clear out stress or frustration and give your brain a little break.
  4. Stretch and release your eye muscles by doing what I call the “clock” exercise.  You close your eyes for 10-15 seconds, and then open them and stretch them up (without moving your head up) to the 12 o’clock position and take a full, deep breath in and then out.  Move your eyes to 3 o’clock and repeat the full, deep breath.  Then to 6, 9, and back to 12.  And then reverse the cycle and repeat it moving your eyes counter-clockwise.  It takes about 2 minutes and is helpful to physically let go of eye strain, helps reduce headaches, and reduces stress in the nervous system because the eye circuits are really key circuitry in the brain.
  5. Listen to music, especially while doing tasks that require concentration and focus. Instrumental music is the most effective.
  6. Occasionally, when you are so overwhelmed and pressured that it seems totally impossible to do so, just don’t do all the things.  Or even better, don’t do any of the things.  Just don’t DO for a day on occasion.  Your body, mind, spirit – and relationships – will thank you.

To summarize, how you FEEL is what matters.  If you FEEL flat, watch out!  The trigger is hair sensitive.  But if you’re feelin’ good, then by all means, keep doing what you’re doing!

And if you’re struggling in creating the life you REALLY want, please reach out for help.  We are here to assist.  864-918-2914

Silence is Golden is Not a Metaphor

SunflowerThe human world is very noisy: cars, big public spaces, meetings, gadgets that need our attention and therefore make sounds and flash lights to get it, kids laughing, playing, or even screaming, adults (sometimes screaming) moving clumsily through the world with their attention spans split between tiny screens and the real world.  We could take the rest of the day to name all the noise we hear on the regular. But let’s not, we all know that would just take more talking and a lot of us need less of that too, sometimes.

My point is that in order to experience silence – at all – one must CHOOSE to be silent and make space and time for silence in one’s life.  I assume at some point in human evolution it was quieter, but then we learned to talk and make tools and ever since it’s like we’ve been trying to magnify the sounds and make the world a louder place.  But all this noise is interference.  It’s interference between our souls and selves; it’s interference between the quiet voice of our highest self inside and the maddening cries of our lowest common denominator self that gets more and more insistent under stress and eventually becomes the only voice of ourselves we can hear.  If we do not learn to STOP and cultivate silence:  around us and inside us.

So in the quiet of early mornings, it has become a sacred practice for me to cultivate some silence.  Some days that may mean 5 minutes of simple meditation practice focused on breathing while also doing some mundane task like tidying up the kitchen and making coffee. That morning silent contemplative time will mean I can better navigate any stresses during the day, like people running late to appointments or unexpected traffic on the way to the office. On days that I have even a little protracted silence in the morning (twenty minutes or so), the whole day unfolds with more grace and ease.  It’s like the stresses don’t happen at all or if they do, they seem so minor compared to the vast chasm of inner calm that I hardly notice. And then on the days when I have a lot of silence in the mornings (an hour or so), the days seem to be practically enchanted with wonders, like the silence itself cast a golden spell on the rest of the day. Those days, it’s not just that stresses don’t stress me.  It’s that there are no stresses. It’s like those days are filled with good news, lots of little moments of joy and pleasure, a sense of satisfaction and completion after encounters with clients, colleagues, and friends, and usually some unexpected next step happens on the way to a larger goal I’m working with.

StarfishThat is how I know that “silence is golden” is not actually a metaphor.  Although it is 100% counter to the very Western (read: American) “work ethic” around working hard all the time, and productivity being the number one goal, and “downtime” being a mythological beast that everyone schedules in between the important things, silence is a crucible of productivity. Silence is actually where magic can happen in one’s life.  Silence is the connection between us and all our noise to our Source (God, Goddess, the Universe, the Spirit, our higher selves, or whatever other label may suit your particular beliefs).  Silence is our energetic connection to Source, of which each of us is a part.  We are like holograms, unaware we are holograms until we get silent and begin to sense that “all is one” is equally real and non-metaphorical.

The next time you’re feeling stressed, especially if it’s about what seem to be “hard” material matters like money or a hard conversation or finding a job or whatever it is that has you so stressed that a way out is starting to feel impossible to you, please just stop.  Please just sit down.  Please just stay calm with yourself and be completely silent until you are able to also silence your MIND.  Using a simple mantra (a phrase that you repeat to yourself or whisper aloud to help you focus) like “I am safe,” or “I am calm,” or “I am ok,” or just simply “I am” can be of valuable service to generating silence inside.  Your breath, inhaling and exhaling, and a simple mantra can replace the stressed out chatter of a mind on the brink.  It takes practice, but every time you choose to stop and sit and be silent, you are literally building circuitry in your brain that will help you connect more deeply and allow the inspired answers you need to come into your conscious mind.  You are infinitely more powerful that you’ve been taught to think you are.  Silence is how you begin to access your power.

Go be golden!

Namaste.

PS – Though silence is the most helpful, it can be intimidating to start with silent meditation practice all alone.  So check out some of our audio meditation help to get you started. And if that’s not enough, call us 864-918-2914 or email to schedule some coaching.  We are here to serve.

 

 

Mimosa Magic on the Summer Solstice

Mimosa in full bloom

Mimosa Magic on the Summer Solstice

The energy on the solstice has been building over the past week, and I’ve certainly felt its expansive nature, feeling compelled to just keep going, even when tired, along with the daylight and its abundant offerings of enjoyment! Summertime means swimming, hiking, hammocking in the wilds, rowing, gardening, eating salads, and being with friends and family for me, and I feel all those sorts of urges towards fun and living easy even when I’m working, or cleaning, or doing the things that life requires of us to continue getting to enjoy ourselves.  You know, adulting.

Ah, but this awesome summer solstice energy invites us to luxuriate in summer’s cauldron, enjoying the abundance of life all around us. (All work and no play makes us all dull boys and girls.) So it invites things like a spontaneous pre-sunset mountain lake swim after a long day of working with clients. Because sometimes “a long day” includes a lot of heavy lifting, literally or metaphorically.  Sometimes long days include helping to relieve suffering around grief and learning to live life more fully even with a life-changing long-term mental health diagnosis.  So when you receive such an invitation for fun from your impulse of spirit, please do yourself a favor and answer that call!  Go ENJOY a spontaneous urge to do something FUN for yourself when you can, as often as you can!

When I followed last night’s spontaneous swim urge, it led to me seeing lots of rabbits and blooming mimosa trees everywhere I looked as I drove to and from the lake.  I was just delighted, like a small child, really, because bunnies are cute, of course, and mimosa trees, especially when blooming, make the whole world start to look like Dr. Seuss drew it, which just makes my heart smile.  Mimosa is also called the “silk tree,” and the “trash tree,” which I feel like actually increases its Dr. Seussian street creds.  I mean, mimosa is the real tree most like his famous Truffula Trees from The Lorax, and it’s often used in such environmental *clean-up efforts as landfill soil remediation, having been discovered to do an excellent job cleaning up damaged soil due to its nitrogen affixing properties. Therefore, I was really attuned to the mimosas and how gorgeous they were so that when I turned into my driveway, I immediately saw a bunny and noticed the mimosas along the creek and near the cottage were absolutely in full bloom.  I was overwhelmed by the volume of their sweet smelling pink tufty blossoms, bursting out on tree after tree everywhere along the creek side and base of the mountain.  I knew that it was time to make time to harvest some mimosa and capture its magical medicinal properties of helping to relieve depression, specifically depression related to grief.

Mimosa in honey to relieve sadness from griefKnown in Traditional Chinese Medicine as He Huan Pi or collective happiness flower, mimosa is said to “calm disturbed shen” to relieve symptoms like anxiety, insomnia, and bad dreams.  Mimosa is also a very effective mood elevator, and is used to treat irritability, depression, mood swings, poor memory, and anger in TCM. In addition to these traditional uses, a simple mimosa flower and honey mix helps relieve the deep pain of grief. Mimosa also has a long history in traditional Appalachian folk medicine, which is where I first encountered using it for grief.

My personal journey through the stormy seas of grief, again and again through the loss of so many loved ones, and my professional journey of helping others keep moving through the never-ending waves of grief that accompany losing those we love deeply, has left me acutely aware of grief’s signature sadness. Grief’s sadness shows up sometimes years after we think we’re okay, and some days it just sits, heavy on our chests, like a weight pressing down over which you have no control. On some of those days, I am comforted with thoughts of days like yesterday, when I can think of the mimosa trees and their magical, silky flowers, and their honeysuckle-like sweetness, and how they heal our hearts.

Mimosa blossoms floating in water - living summer potpourri Summertime begins on this longest day of the year, offering easy living as the old song says.  May we all find some peace and joy on the solstice breeze, and if you see some mimosas, go ahead and pick those fuzzy looking flowers and make yourself a nice flower powered drink with some honey. Your heart may lift and your mood may follow it up, into a sense of ease and relief from the deep sadness that accompanies grief, often long after a loss. It is my wish that this solstice and this summer bring you magical, healing experiences with nature and your own abundance.

Namaste.

Practical bits:  Mimosa is easy to harvest and easy to use. But it is also an invasive species and shouldn’t be introduced to new areas without special consideration. For more about mimosa and its  uses, I suggest these sites as starting places. Also, be smart with any plants you may use, and do your research before ingesting anything you read about on the internet. J

http://www.davidwinston.org/formulas/griefrelief_trad.html

https://southernherbalist.wordpress.com/2011/07/02/mimosa/

http://www.hearthsidehealing.com/mimosa-the-happiness-tree/

*NOTE:  Please do not ever consider harvesting mimosa from any used for land remediation due to high levels of toxins, including mimosas alongside highways.

GTP Artists Grand Opening 2017

GTP Grand OpeningSpring has sprung, and the quiet halls of the Greenville Trade Park (formerly Steel Heddle) at 1801 Rutherford Rd are bustling with artists, artisans, and small business owners who are dedicated to turning this once empty space into a thriving community!

SATURDAY MAY 6, 2017
7PM-9PM

With an AfterGlow Dance Party at Niad!

We cordially invite you to join us in celebration as we open new local businesses:
Liz Daly Designs
Vitti Tile
Niad
Speckled Cakes
Color of Grey
Fairy Godmother Project/People’s Pantry
Complete Life Coaching
and so much more!

Check out all that we have to offer. Art, music, jewelry, dance and movement, yummy food, life coaching, more art, art classes, dance classes, and so much more!!!

For this event, we are pulling out all the stops! Live entertainment by Hillary Keane, Niad Dance Company, and more. Hoop Dance Party in the gallery, give aways and special deals from ALL of our businesses. Finish off the evening at the Niad studio after party, glow dance party!
Lots of cool stuff.
Plenty of free parking!

Contact 864-918-2914 for more information!

Bundles of Joy

Joy Jar

Pouring out joy!

I began my now-annual tradition of keeping a “Joy Jar” in January of 2014 during a very dark period of grief and depression in my own life.  I felt lost, exhausted, and just so gravely sad almost every day, even though my coaching practice was growing and I was in the best physical shape of my adult life.  Grief is a monster, with long tentacles that invade all aspects of life.  I saw a little post on Facebook about “Joy Jars” and thought, “what the hell? It can’t hurt to look for some joy, so I’ll give it a try.”  You can read about my first year of this process here.

Joy Jar 2016-2017Cut to NOW – January 2017. Life has moved forward, and mine has seen a lot of improvement and positive growth as I’ve deepened my practice of documenting my own joy, as often as I possibly think to do so.  As I began emptying out my jar, right after two back-to-back holiday driving tours, I noticed immediately that 2016’s jar had a LOT more joy stuffed into it!  Thinking back over the roller coaster of global atrocities, polarizing politics, and the loss of so many cultural icons, I was quite pleased to see that I had kept my attention honed around seeking joy in spite of the news and the general state of affairs in the world.  I felt a little giddy as I pulled the bits of folded paper out onto the kitchen table.

Table full of happinessAs I began unfolding each piece and reading my own scrawl, I noticed that I wrote more detail and more feeling words than I had in previous years.  I wrote lots of tiny stories about whole days or weekends, or a particularly juicy conversation or experience, sometimes cross-referencing dates in my journal so that I could read even more, and I also noted how I felt.

I saw lots of good feeling words like excited, grateful, loved, ecstatic, surprised, relieved, woo hoo!, feeling acceptance, unconditional love, yay!, and hopeful.  I saw that my joy was very active, too, with all kinds of verbs like hiking, swimming, rowing, paddling, laughing, eating, noticing, cheering, savoring, traveling, loving, and more swimming. I could see myself on location when I read my narratives that included relaxation, deep conversations, sharing experiences, boating with friends in Florida, hanging with my family during their summer vacation trip to my mountain, long walk and talks in the woods with my best friend, playing outside, sharing favorite swimming holes with my favorite kids, seeing fireworks over the lake on 4th of July, driving… Basically, the Joy Jar of 2016 was EPIC.  As I read all my bits of joy, I got to soak them up and experience them all over again.  I could really transport myself to those moments scattered throughout the year and connect to the warm fuzzy inside that led me to write them down for the jar.

As it turns out, joy is an infinitely renewable resource!

Bundles of Joy

Growing Bundles of Joy

And now I see a whole new value in the practice of stuffing your smallest moments of triumph and most intense moments of pure joy and excitement into a jar to review at the end of a very long 365 days: doing so helps you be discerning in your future goals and plans.  You can see EXACTLY what makes you happy and then you can PLAN to do more of those things. When your life becomes your own in this way, you feel a deep sense of freedom, purpose, and peace. Energy flows where attention goes, so make sure energy is flowing towards filling your life with as much joy as possible.

Having already done a good bit of my strategic planning and goal setting over the next 12-18 months, I’m now using the patterns I’ve extrapolated from my joy jars to tweak those plans and goals. When you plant seeds of joy, you reap more joy.  This is such easy gardening, and you don’t even get your hands dirty. If you’ve never tried this simple practice to help you be more mindful of what makes you happy, get started right now!  Your January 2018 self will be forever grateful that you took these simple steps.

  • Step 1:  Find an empty jar. Or a box. Or a notebook even.
  • Step 2:  Fill it with little notes to yourself about moments of joy throughout the year.
  • Step 3:  Empty it out at the end of the year/beginning of next year and have the pleasure of re-experiencing your own joys as you read through all your notes and stories.
  • Step 4:  Repeat.

May your 2017 bring you JOY in many forms, and may you be paying attention so that you notice when you feel it!  Namaste.

Not feeling the joy? Feeling stuck and not sure how to get out of your rut?  Call today for a FREE phone or Skype coaching consultation !  (864) 918-2914 or email info@completelifecoaching.com

Vicy is a Board Certified Transformational Life Coach, founder of Complete Life Coaching, and holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Philosophy from Oglethorpe University (Atlanta, GA) and Durham University (England), respectively, with specialization in neuroscience, chemistry, and Eastern-Western philosophy of mind comparative studies, and a Certified Indoor Rowing Instructor.  When she’s not coaching or rowing, Vicy is also a yogini, wild water swimming enthusiast, Reiki master (Levels I & II), hula hooper, writer, speaker, and organic gardener. Vicy’s life purpose is helping others discover the best in themselves while learning to pursue their dreams and goals with proven strategies that’ll help them move mountains.

Practice Forgiveness: Free Yourself from the Past


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By Vicy Wilkinson, MA, BCC

I grew up in a family that’s both gigantic and was always pretty close, often even to extended cousins and relatives to whom I’ve never really understood how we’re related. Close though we were, it was clear my family also holds grudges. Apparently, forever.

There were entire branches of the family that “we don’t talk to” because of some argument that occurred at a country church some time in the 1960s, some 15-20 years before I was even born. I was shuttled to church every week and taught a weird lesson about forgiveness: we hold grudges, the lord forgives.

I now understand the error of this thinking and this way of moving through the world. Holding on to past slights, anger, pain, arguments, blame, etc. doesn’t do anything helpful for anyone. Instead, it causes wounds to fester and ooze out into all other aspects of life and of self. It became clear to me that even if one believes forgiveness is the lord’s work, forgiveness does not occur without some active participation on our parts. Forgiveness has become incredibly human work, in my life and in my coaching practice.

In fact, practicing forgiveness is an integral part of becoming whole and healing intergenerational trauma, along with simply being able to let go of pain and disappointment that arises from sharing a world full of highly fallible humans. There are billions of us, so it makes sense to have some go-to help with the process.

That’s why I wrote a pragmatic little book that walks readers through 13 different ways to practice forgiveness in every day life and it’s now available for Kindle on Amazon. In it you will find ways to tackle forgiving others, and also ways of forgiving your SELF, which I believe is critical to long term health and happiness.

Here’s an excerpt from one of the practices that you can start today, and it’s a practice that takes a lot of courage. Forgiveness takes courage, which means it begins in the heart like the root of the word courage itself.

Confront Your Fears Head On:
 Move Past Them by Taking Action.

We all feel fear. Some schools of thought believe we really only feel two basic emotions: fear and whatever we think fear’s opposite is, most often described as love. All other emotions fall on a sort of spectrum of emotions that exist as tension between these poles. Fear serves a purpose, and is deeply rooted in our survival as a species. Fear protects and helps keep us safe. However, when fear begins to “protect” us in ways that withhold love, consideration, openness, communicative understanding, and kindness towards those we choose to depend on as trustworthy companions in our lives, its methods of protection are outdated and need to be updated based on knowledge and a deeper understanding of both ourselves and our companions in this lifetime. [By companions here, I’m using a broad stroke term to mean every person in your life who you choose to trust and care for. I mean your family of origin, your family you may have created through marriage and children or through friendship, friends, etc. Whoever it is that you choose to share this life with consciously.]

Fear becomes problematic when you let it stop your progress or isolate you from the people you love and trust, and who love and trust you. In terms of interpersonal relationships, fear commonly shows up as avoidance or flight or both. When we are making big decisions or feeling big feelings or wanting to ask for something to meet our needs or needing to share something we’re ashamed of or guilty over, it’s so easy to cave to the fear monster that tells us to run away or put up some smoke and mirrors or stick our fingers in our ears and hum lalalalalala really fast until maybe, just maybe, our inaction will work out in everyone’s favor. Pro tip: it doesn’t.

When we do not confront our fears, and instead either run away or do nothing but avoid the confrontation, we suffer. We suffer continuously, and that suffering overwhelms the banks of our river of self and will eventually flood us and those around us. Sometimes it drowns us all, and some or all of us cannot recover completely.

“Rather than letting our negativity get the better of us, we could acknowledge that right now we feel like a piece of shit and not be squeamish about taking a good look.” 
~ Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart

So, what sorts of actions do you take to boldly confront your own fears? Your own shame? Your own flaws, mistakes, and misdeeds? The stuff that really makes you feel like a piece of shit, you know?

I am not sure I’ve come up with a step by step procedure exactly, but here are a few specific steps you can practice that will at least get you moving towards conquering your fears and learning to lean into the right people for support to get you through it all, and expect them to lean right back.

Get to know what they are, especially what the overarching one(s) is or are. What do you fear most? What makes you feel most small and helpless? Some examples are abandonment, not being loveable, dying suddenly and prematurely, that if the person you love knew the truth about you they would disappear in a heartbeat, not being ______ enough, being alone, being ashamed of _____, not being loved, not having your basic needs met… the list of fears we humans experience is infinite.

Use practices like tonglen meditation to give those fears space to be felt, heard, and acknowledged, and then transformed and released. Practice. Repeat.

Discern who in your life is truly worth trusting (and therefore loving) enough to share the true feelings around what’s real and alive in you, so that you may also fully share in the other end of the spectrum with that person/those people you choose. We must disclose our pain to fully experience our joy and love without the burden of fear. This means that not everyone in your life will know you at this level, clearly. You must take your time and be careful about who you become truly emotionally and mentally intimate with so that you can rest in the sharing. Sharing your fears makes you incredibly vulnerable. So you must be able to lean into your own faith that those you share fully with will hold your trust tenderly and with loving care. Choose wisely and choose from a place of love.

Find your voice. Know that it may shake and stutter in ways you’re not used to at all and it will feel excruciatingly uncomfortable at first. Practice. Repeat. Silence and hiding the fears from those closest to you creates a toxic mess inside yourself and inside your relationships.

Be gentle with yourself and with your loved ones. Be kind. Stay calm. If emotions get too intense, just back off and rest and find peace again. Remember that it’s all practice and treat your own fear confrontation with the kind of compassion you would show a child learning a new skill. For most of us, it is a new skill. And you’ll find as you practice that it’s usually a new skill for your loved ones, too.

May each of our hearts and minds become open to actively practicing forgiveness, for the sake of our individual selves and the collective good.

13 Ways to Practice Forgiveness & Free Yourself from the Past

This book is meant to be a pragmatic guide for anyone who is interested in personal growth and healing through practicing forgiveness. It addresses the deeply human experiences of shame, blame, guilt, anger, and grief, and how our internalization of our own dark sides can keep us from fully experiencing light, joy, and love in our lives. It was written to help people feel more prepared to confront themselves with kindness and appreciation for the human-ness of the need for forgiveness in our lives. The practices can be used both for self-forgiveness and for learning to forgive others so that we can stop holding back love and joy.

About the author:
Vicy is a board certified transformational life coach, and holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Philosophy from Oglethorpe University (Atlanta, GA) and Durham University (England), respectively, with specialization in neuroscience, chemistry, and Eastern-Western philosophy of mind comparative studies. Vicy is also a Concept2/UCanRow2 Certified Indoor Rowing Instructor. In addition to rowing (indoor and sculling, mainly doubles), she’s also a yogini, wild water swimming enthusiast, hiker, Reiki master, hula hooper (making, hooping, teaching), writer, speaker, teacher, and organic gardener (medicinals and edibles). Her clients, students, and colleagues call her “the wizard.

 

Cultivate Self-Compassion

Cultivate Compassion… Starting With YourSELF

Think Before You Speak, even to yourselfBy Vicy L. Wilkinson, MA, BCC

“I am so stupid.”
“I am so frustrate that I keep doing this even though I know it’s not good for me and I know it’s wrong. What is WRONG with me?”
“Why can’t I just let it GO?”
“When will I learn to stop letting people walk all over me?”

I hear a lot of comments like the ones above from my clients during our first few sessions. One aspects of my work as a transformational life coach is to help people hear their own language, especially with regards to how they talk to and treat themselves. I spend a lot of time carefully saying things like, “May I please repeat back to you what you just said to me?” I repeat what clients say with similar inflection and body language to their own. When I do so, I see the look of shock on their faces and I watch their bodies slump or tense or shudder or whatever the general modus operandi is for that particular person. People are initially scared of their own language, verbal and non-verbal.

Why is our inner dialogue and our outer talk about ourselves important?  Because we must first hear what and how we’re talking to ourselves in order to begin developing compassion.

Once a client has heard his or her language clearly, I ask a question like, “Would you say what you just said to [or about] yourself to a five-year old you were taking care of? Would you say it to your best friend?” The answer is always a resounding NO and a rather disturbed look. Usually that “no” is followed by some commentary on how much easier it is to be kind, objective, and compassionate towards others than it is to be kind, objective, and compassionate towards one’s self. I agree. It IS easier, but this is exactly why it is so important that we all learn to develop a deep compassion towards ourselves.

How do develop kindness & compassion towards ourselves?

It all starts with noticing. Noticing how we’re feeling during moments of frustration or anger or guilt or shame. Just like I ask my clients to pause and allow themselves the opportunity to “instant replay” what they just said by my repeating it to them, we must learn to do this for ourselves. When we are able to notice the shift in our language and behavior, whether we say it out loud or just say it in our own minds, it’s equally degrading and problematic. Once we are able to consistently notice our tendencies, we can begin to consciously change them through choice. If we never notice, we can never choose to change.

Following are three suggestions on how to start noticing:

1 – Allow yourself an extra two minutes in the morning and two minutes in the evening to sit still and quiet and just create some “breathing room” within yourself. You can sit and just breathe. You can sit and say kind things to yourself or affirmations of some kind. You can sit and just be quiet and allow your thoughts to float through you like fluffy clouds on a summer afternoon. You can sit and listen to calming music. What you do doesn’t matter as much as intentionally taking just a couple of minutes for “time in” with yourself to just BE for a moment. The purpose in doing it morning and evening is to start your day centered and end your day centered because doing so helps you develop your own inner observer. Your inner observer is the part of you that recognizes you are more than the sum of your parts. You aren’t just your thoughts or your job or your kids or your mom’s fears or whatever it is that you tend to over-identify with about yourself. When you stop over-identifying with one aspect of yourself, you instantly become more open and compassionate towards yourself and others.

2 – Take a moment to “check in” with yourself throughout your day, especially on busy days when you’ve scheduled yourself back to back to back and have that feeling that I call “the white rabbit” syndrome. (Do you remember the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland? “I’m late! I’m late! I’m late for an important date!”) It’s amazing what three long, slow, deep breaths can do, and you can do them in the car, or at your desk, or even in the middle of a meeting. It’s just breathing. I assure you everyone does it. Taking a moment to do it consciously can help clear your head, your heart, and give you a centering energy boost to help you feel more peaceful within. When you feel more peaceful within, your ability to be compassionate expands exponentially.

Kids being silly3 – Laugh. Need I really say more? LAUGH AT YOURSELF. Are you really taking it so bloody seriously that you ate two cookies instead of just one? Is it really a crisis that you’re running 3 minutes behind schedule? Will someone die if you don’t say yes to every volunteer opportunity presented to you? Laugh at your human-ness. I assure you, we are ALL in the same boat. And oftentimes, when we really look at it, that boat is very funny. Laughter helps you gain perspective and it also gives you a solid boost of feel-good hormones that will help you recognize life is hard enough without your needing to make it harder on yourself by saying unkind things. You don’t deserve that. You deserve kindness, peace, and compassion. Give yourself some.

Give and Get

What’s really interesting about the journey towards constant self-compassion is that as we begin to give ourselves daily doses of our own compassion and kindness, we begin to notice that others are giving us more of both as well. When we treat ourselves with loving-kindness and compassion, our bodies, minds, and spirits respond to our treatment and we (seriously) begin to resonate at higher frequencies. Our energy levels are higher and more sustained. We begin to sense that we can TRUST OURSELVES. We begin to sense that nothing is inherently wrong with us, and instead we are simply perfectly imperfect creatures, every single one of us. We begin to realize that others are struggling with the same sorts of things that we are struggling with, and we begin to realize that by recognizing these similarities we build bridges that help us connect to others. We can see ourselves in others, and our empathy grows. We can see ourselves in the mirror and realize we deserve goodness, from ourselves and from others. The bottom line is that when we start giving to ourselves, we can give more to others and we can actively receive more from others. We can hear compliments and just say, “Thank you,” and smile. We can hear praise and accept that we deserve it. We can feel appreciation and we can reciprocate that feeling. We can RELAX and allow others to help us see our own greatness while we help others do the same.

It’s not EASY because it takes conscious effort and conscious practice. But it is very simple. Cultivating compassion for yourself helps you and everyone around you. The only change you can ever really produce is self-change. So, stop waiting. Take a deep breath. And just do it!