Grounding, Happiness, health coaching, Mental health, Nature, The Fourth Trimester, Trail running

A Nature Based Meditation You Can Do While Walking With a Stroller! This Will Help with New Mom Anxiety.

I do something called nature coaching where I use the natural world to help clients shift their mindset, physiological and psychological state.  It’s fun and I never know what lesson nature will offer that day, so it is a practice I enter with curiosity and excitement. I’ve developed many of the techniques while out walking with my baby on each maternity leave, and I wanted to share one that has stuck with me. I find it very helpful when I experience the anxiety of the fourth trimester when my body is on high alert for everything(!)

This is a very calming and grounding mindful practice, and short nature-based meditation that you can do while walking that uses your senses instead of your breath.

This is perfect for the days when you are out with the baby in a stroller (and hopefully said baby is sleeping!)  I also find this an effective technique when breath-based meditation is not available to me (I suffer from chest pain when I take deep breaths, as a result of an auto-immune disease called ankylosing spondylitis which causes interesting flare ups in unexpected places haha.)

This practice has the same benefits as breathing-based meditations and walking-based meditations, but it includes a sensory component (since you are out in beautiful nature.)  The sensory component I actually adapted from some training that Navy SEALS do (!)

I explain in this youtube video!  Enjoy, and try it out on your next stroller walk!

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Families in Calgary, Happiness, Lifestyle Design, Mental health, Personal Development, The Fourth Trimester, Working Mom

My Letter to New Parents who Are Feeling a Bit Overwhelmed with All of the Advice.

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You have A CHOICE.  A choice in however you want to take on the next few years of your life, a choice in how you incorporate parenthood and you-hood in a way that works.

You have the RIGHT. The right to explore how parenthood has been defined by others around you, by the society around you and you definitely have the right to explore what you’ve picked up and taken on as your own definition, and what your deeper intuition is saying to you.

You have the RIGHT.  The right to ask questions, to ask yourself, is this really my belief, or someone else’s?  What feels right for me?  Am I doing it for me, or because I don’t afraid of being judged? What serves me and my family best?  What makes me hold back who I really am?

Parenthood is tricky.  People are intense about how it should be done.   I do believe most people come from a place of kindness… it’s just that they come at it with whatever their own background references are, and assume their background stories and beliefs should be yours, too. That’s a bit silly, isn’t it?

When well-meaning people share their own ‘idea’ of parenthood and attempt to push that style on you (most often without asking for permission,) defuse your irritation by remembering they do come from a good place. Good intentions. When kids are involved people are acting from love, not hate.  It’s noisy out there, everyone wants to tell you what you should do.  The fun part is though, that you have the right to question everything.  Smile and say to yourself “nope.”

I think we all forget, that none of us are parenting experts.  There’s no answer.  There’s never any one right answer.     That’s why the parenting industry is so noisy and loud and clamouring for our attention by dangling the sticks of fear and doubt in front of us (parenting magazines, anyone?) We’re all searching for the answers to parenthood which funnily enough, are within us, not out there. 

You have the FREEDOM. You have the freedom to break from the group.  Even if everybody REALLY wants you to follow the group and what has been done before and what is done now.  Or… what is done now according to some television producer out there, or magazine editor who chooses what gets published and put out to the public.

You have the ABILITY.  The ability to embrace doubt, to feel discomfort, feel a bit lonely, and seek out others on the same path, and in the proess, realize that you’re not lonely, or different – you’re perfect just the way you are.  Perfectly imperfect.

And hey, if you are a hexagon parent in an octagon world, wicked, that’s space for you and you can celebrate your hexagon-ness.  And the beauty of technology is that if you need others, you can find other hexagons to enjoy and share the journey with.

You have the RIGHT.  The right to explore which ‘conceptions of parenthood’ you picked up conciously and subconsciously.  You have the right to understand how much is habit and how much is intention.  Intention is fun in parenthood.  It’s where you decide what YOU want and then you practice it. Every day.

You have the DUTY.  The duty to get rid of the messaging and beliefs that do not serve you.  Get rid of any crap that stops you from being the best version of you.  Because the best version of you, is the best parent for your kids.   And guess who knows what makes you tick? What makes you happy?  That’s right… YOU.

We have a gift in this lifetime, and that is called choice.  To really own the freedom of choice though, you have to shake off the burden of being concerned about others’ judgments. You’ll always be judged.  Judging is powerless, we don’t have to take a judgement on…. yet we run around like they are lasers and they’ll take off our foot or maybe a leg, or an arm.  We are outraged.  We are hurt.  We frustrated when we get judged.  But.. here’s the question…why even take that judgement on board? we could have stepped over that lazer beam instead of walked right into it.

With judgment, the truth is, some people want to sit in their armchairs and be spectators and comment on everything.   They aren’t living their life and it’s much more interesting watching you live yours (?)  But you know what? They are not your concern.

You’re busy being on the field and in the game.

No athlete would win a game if they paid attention to the audience and followed the advice of 20,000 fans shouting 20,000 different things from every direction.

(So why do we do this in parenthood?)

The only people qualified to tell you if you are an awesome parent are your own kids, and in these early days at least, they will most certainly tell you that you are great, followed by a big wet sloppy toddler kiss, before asking you to get them a snack.

You have the DUTY.  The duty to take on only those approaches which are true to you and make you fulfilled –  because a damn good parent is any parent, of any style, who is at peace, who is present and who is growing.

I’ll leave you with this thought: According to stats Canada there are almost 10 million mothers in Canada. That’s 9.8 million women with totally different personalities, backgrounds, stories about what it means to be a mother and ‘styles’ of motherhood.  There’s plenty of room for all of us.

Book Club, Creativity, Grounding, Happiness, Learning, Lifestyle Design, Mental health, Personal Development, Spirituality

Design your Own Parental Leave

wildflower (1)Welcome back from the long weekend, everybody!

A thought for you to meditate on today, as you go about your day.

Story telling versus story making.

Think about where you want to be in 5 years.  Are there changes you want?  I’m guessing the answer is YES.

So let me ask you this:  Will that future version of yourself, living that future life, still be walking around telling the same stories about yourself?  The world?  The way things are going?

Will you get there if you keep telling all of those old stories, that keep you where you are today? 

Or is it time to start writing some new ones?  How can you shift a little bit of your day?  Your thinking? The way you talk about yourself? What you commit to doing with a friend this week?  Start writing some new sentences.

It’s your story. Take the plot where you want it to, but remember to pick up the pen first.

Xo

Carina

 

Free Life Coaching Guides, Happiness, health coaching, Learning, Life Hacks, Lifestyle Design, Mental health, Personal Development, Spirituality, Working Mom

What Does a Life Coach Actually Do? Ask Me Anything about Life Coaching.

www.trajectorycoaching.org
Carina Huggins

Carina Huggins

BA, MSS, ACC, MBTI®

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I was chatting with someone the other day about being a professional coach, and they said to me, “so basically you listen to people’s problems and give advice?”

I stopped and thought about that for a moment. The answer that I gave?

“No, actually I don’t do either of those.” Hardly the reply my acquaintance was expecting.

We were having coffee, so there was time to explain.

I wanted to share this question tonight, because it was an opportunity to both clarify the art and science of coaching and address a common misperception. Two birds with one stone.

There are so many definitions of ‘coaching’ out there. Yes, there are some out there who solve problems, give advice and act in a consultant model (which are certainly excellent models) but what is it like with a professionally certified ICF coach?

Let me tell you, because it is an interesting distinction.

I don’t ‘listen’ to my client’s problems.

In fact, the actual problem doesn’t sweep me up the way it does for a client. Though I listen with my ears, as a coach, it is not serving you if I dive right in with you to the story and resonate with it, body mind and soul. When a client is working with a problem, they are swimming in it. I like the analogy of choppy water on a lake – A client is paddling, working hard, staying afloat, solving the problem, coming up for a gasp, and then another problem arises… from the same exact lake.

It’s not easy swimming in choppy water. A client’s problem can easily take up an entire coaching hour, and it is up to the coach to respect the client’s needs and goals for a session, have them know we truly hear them, but also know when it is time to gently guide them out of the water, and have them wade onto the shore. From the shore, together a coach and client can examine the entire lake from an outside perspective.

Coaching is like finally deciding to clamber out and sit on the shore after battling the waves. I always tell potential clients that they must be able and willing to step into the mode of “a human simply being” and approach things with curiosity and an open mind. To be with themselves and be with the coaching process. Be willing to put some things into practice and be willing to stay accountable. If they stay in “human busily doing” mode with a strong desire for benchmarks, outcomes, a fixation on the goals, they are basically out there still swimming in the lake, just harder and faster. They won’t trust me enough to come sit on the shore beside me. They won’t develop trust in the relationship or go dive deep in session.

But back to the lake…

I am not listening to my client’s problem. I am listening with my ears to a client and their problem, yes but I am listening on several other levels, as well. I am watching the subtle shifts in body language, eye contact, gestures and posture. I am quite literally feeling the energetic shifts in a conversation and the associated moods and emotions. A client doesn’t have to tell me when they move into sadness or happiness in a story, the change in the air and energy of a room is palpable. I may offer this as a gentle observation to deepen awareness and context of the discussion, particularly if we are working not just on a conversation and logic level, but an emotional and intuitive level.

As I listen to a client, I am not listening to their problem. I am listening to the person behind the problem. The helpful beliefs, the harmful beliefs, the statements that shut down future possibility, the statements that open it up. The vast background of emotions, moods, experiences, and beliefs that have made this neutral event in this person’s life a problem for them that is keeping them from where they want to be.

And giving advice? Nope. Definitely not that either.

I don’t give advice in a coaching session.

After 3000 coaching sessions, I know for a fact, that the only true expert, the only content matter expert in that specific client’s life is themselves. Only they know precisely where they truly want to be, and only they truly know why their ‘right now’ is not doing it for them. I don’t have to wake up with them every day. They have to wake up with themselves every day for the rest of their lives. I think about this all of the time, because I really appreciate how profound that statement is.

It is a catalyst for ownership, responsibility and accountability in clients. Try it yourself. Write on a post-it note, “I will wake up with you tomorrow, and every morning for the rest of my life. Love, me.”

Giving advice doesn’t result in someone crossing the bridge from where they are to where they want to be. It simply gives them a brief glimpse of the other side, described by someone else. They don’t see how amazing it is.

What makes someone walk over to the other side of the bridge and truly step into their new life, finally take action and get results? Well, I can tell you it is not advice giving.

I cannot walk that bridge for them and shout out from the other side “It is amazing over here you should join me! Just start walking!” (by the way, a lot of coaches do this.)

However, I can walk alongside a client over that bridge. As we step over the cobble stones together we co-create what the other side looks like. We partner in helping the client gain perspective, awareness, clarity and choice. And when they get halfway over the bridge and slow down or perhaps move backward, we can deepen practices, accountability and move deeper to remove final blocks that have held them back all these years. When you are moving forward, you develop ways to move forward, but you also develop ways to fight the urge to move backward, to where you came from. To safety. Security. Familiarity.

This is another important piece of coaching; the call of safety, security, familiarity is strong. It is literally wired into the brain. As a client moves into new possibilities for their life and new opportunities, the brain will use its best tools to convince a client to return to where they were. Coaching is a dynamic process and this bump in the road shows up in different ways depending on the client. Recommitment to the original problem and way of thinking, with even more passion, rescheduling a session or a lot of “I don’t know”s in a session. These to me are not obstacles but opportunities. It’s an exciting indicator they are moving well along the bridge and the best work is about to happen.

I don’t give advice.

In fact, you are giving me advice on your life, where you want to be and how it is going to happen, and why you need help. I’m asking you LOTS of questions precisely so that you are in that place of giving me advice on you. I’m simply a highly invested partner on this journey of YOU believes you’ll get there and sees how that is possible (even if you don’t yet.)

The moment you step out of yourself and take that outside observer approach you’ll find yourself stopping mid-sentence and realizing what you’ve just said – then, you’ll realize the incongruency of what you just said with what your future life is supposed to be.

And then you’ll look away, perhaps sip at your coffee and I’ll thoroughly enjoy that moment, because it is a magical one. When it comes to a client having a true moment of insight, or an “ah hah moment” I know at that moment, whatever has been seen in your inner perspective cannot be unseen.

I am here as a confidential, supportive, professional partner in your journey. I’m here to have the conversations that you don’t get to have with anyone else, that dive deep inside to who you are as a human being. Unlike therapeutic or clinical approaches (healing, recovery, issue resolution) my time is spent focusing on your elevation, enhancement and growth.

Coaching is an evolutionary, forward facing process. We have all of the information in the world to get us to where we want to go, but we don’t, do we? And that is what coaching focuses on. It gets us there, and then acts as a catalyst for flashes of insight which will ensure you’ll never see anything the same way again and you won’t go back to old patterning or beliefs.

On a personal note, I think that at this time in our lives, we are all in deep need of deeper conversation, deeper connection and more engagement with who we really are. In the 2018 world of humans doing, we all desperately want to be recognized and engaged with as humans being. We are deep. We are growing, and evolving and going through massive shifts. We want someone to bear witness, to support, and be a partner in this process. We should have someone who can be that. It is tragic to experience this rich evolution in this lifetime and not share it with anyone, collaborate with anyone or use our experiences in turn to serve others.

Maternity leave for me has been the CRAZIEST personal growth, evolution, awakening.  Truly on body, mind, intellect, soul, spirit, love – on all of those levels I was cracked wide open, rebuilt and vastly different (in a good way.) Early parenthood is an accelerated growth incubator and it is a gift in that ALL of the above is revealed to you.  It is a wild ride, and I engaged with a coach during it, because I wanted to make sure I was clear on my dreams, the life I wanted for my fam, and wanted to let a few self limiting beliefs go.  I also worked with a psychologist to heal some old wounds, and endeavoured to undertake a variety of “great maternity leave projects” to keep my focus forward facing and fun!

Amidst the surface level day-to-day life of humans doing, we are all hopping online to have deep conversations, listen to podcasts, read books and learn. Have you noticed the explosion in podcasts, following shortly on the explosion of blogs? We are all humans being – yet we do it silently, and alone.

In my gratitude practices (5 minute journal format) I often note down the internet – I’m incredibly thankful for the opportunity to write and share and express my own deep internal worlds.  Motherhood can be lonely, I have a 3 hour window where all of my three kids are happy and awake (9-12) and then they turn into pumpkins and it’s go home for nap time.  Did I mention I work full time? So there’s very little time (and sacred space) to dive deep into these conversations.  I don’t think it’s our fault that we mothers are left scraping the surface of connection with surface level conversations.  We don’t have the time and space to go there, yet.  But, when in just a few years, that place will open up again we will have SO MUCH TO TALK ABOUT.

But in the meantime, I think it’s really, really important to talk now, endeavor to grow, enjoy the journey and have a partner in the process.

For a long time, I didn’t want to because of my own limiting beliefs and reference points, which I worked through and overcame with a coach. I can feel my old mind saying “Carina, this is a really long post and it’s way too personal” but my new mind says, you have a choice in whether to believe that or not, and you no longer do. You know the way to move forward is to share your deepest thoughts and insights and help people understand the profession.

I am here writing precisely because I decided to collaborate with a coach to dive into my deeper internal worlds and clarify where I wanted to go. I am eternally thankful for the rapid evolution and elevation it set me on.

I hope you enjoyed this deeper dive into the coaching profession. I write these from a totally authentic viewpoint of someone who was unsure what it was, went through being coached, and then became an Associate Certified Coach with the International Coach Federation.

I enjoy writing these because I enjoy sharing human stories and help people understand we are all connected and growing together.

To become a coach isn’t to figure it all out instantly, in fact, most coaches are on their own *fun* ( because it’s what they love to do) evolutionary paths. Every day they work through the same thing their clients do. Gaining some tools and insights, reframing, shifting their perceptions, priming their state, practicing awareness and choice. Even the greats like Tony Robbins or Oprah Winfrey do this. Every day.

If you are interested in gaining the tools, shifting your axis and a partner to work with the big shifts and evolution in your life, you are most welcome to shoot me a message.

And do leave a comment if this lands with you – or even better if you have an additional insight to offer that this sparked for you! Reading articles and engaging with others in the comments, let me tell you, has been (and still is) a fundamental part of my own growth path. My mission is to now serve others in their own growth.

Grounding, Happiness, health coaching, Lifestyle, Lifestyle Design, Mental health, Nature, Personal Development, Physical Wellness, Trail running

Advice for Trail Runners. The Diary of a New Trail Runner and Life Coach.

Trail running is amazing because it puts us into flow state, from which our greatest insights and ideas come. I love to coach in nature (I guess you could say I do “nature coaching” or “nature life coaching”) and for me, trail runs are like a ridiculous download from the deepest recesses of my mind.

Today I offer you a wonderful tool on how to leave your past in the past, and start moving towards your future mindfully.

Xo Carina

Ankylosing Spondylitis Journey, Happiness, Mental health, Nature, Spirituality

How to Release the Grip of Grief and Sadness and Elbow Falls After the Flood

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On the weekend my husband, kids and I took a family friend out to see Bragg Creek and Elbow Falls.  It was a brilliant day out, filled with nature exploring and the joy inherent in watching people experience Kananaskis country for the first time.

With tired toddlers and growling stomachs, we decided to make one last stop at Elbow Falls before driving back into Calgary.

It is a powerful place for my husband and I.

This is where my firefighter husband recovered his first body.  As family cried, a helicopter pulled a body bag out of the frothing water below.

This is where I fell completely in love with the mountains, at the age of 10.

I was newly arrived in Canada. Elbow Falls is the first ‘mountains’ experience I had.  It is where my soul realized its LOVE for the mountains. I was obsessed with this spot. Every year for my birthday, my parents would ask me what I wanted and all I wanted to do was ‘be’ at Elbow Falls.  I just wanted to return there.  The forest.  The mountains.

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I can’t help but think, that nature offers us some pretty powerful experiences in the most unexpected moments.  Very often, to be in nature is to access our most pure form of ourselves.  Let me share with you a deeply personal experience and a ‘pivot’ in my own mindset.

We all know on some level that in nature, we depart from the churning thoughts of our day to day life.  Somewhere in nature, where we are swept up in simply being with the rich life around us, and using our bodies and senses, we quiet that helpful but irritating thing called the mind.

You see, we aren’t just lollipops… we are not stick bodies with giant lollipop heads that rule everything.

To be human is NOT just having a brain.  As a human you also own an emotional landscape, a physical landscape *and* that thinking landscape.  We move in and out of each domain all the time, and have our preferred ‘homes.’  Here’s a great diagram that explains it.  This is a model I use often with clients.

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So hold that model in your mind.  I’ll attempt to combine a nature experience with life coaching and personal story.

In 2013 there was a large flood.  Our city was underwater and our waterways were ravaged, even up in the mountains.

The great flood of 2013 changed the Elbow Falls of my childhood, which involved a large forested area with picnic tables and paths.  The river was adjacent to these lovely picnic sites and the falls were quite spectacular.

I hadn’t been back to Elbow Falls since the flood and I was quite floored to see how much the landscape had changed.  The picnic tables, forested paths of my youth were entirely swept away.  In there place was a huge flood plain strewn with rocks.

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Even the shape of the falls had completely changed.

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It was absolutely wild.  The only things that were similar were the large slabs of rock adjacent to the falls.  Even those had been pounded into a softer shape by the flood.

The forest I walked through as a child doesn’t exist anymore.

On Sunday, the reality in front of me was entirely different from the mists of my childhood memories.

Symbolically, that flood had washed away not only a forest but a piece of my childhood

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I couldn’t help but think how this has meaning in my life, in so many ways.  I wanted to touch on the insight this day had on GRIEF.

I used to spend a lot of time at Elbow Falls with my mum.  My mum is no longer in the physical dimension. She passed away during that great flood.

As I walked along the river with my baby, toward an old rock with special meaning, this hit me, I could feel emotion rising up within me.  It was coming. Oh shit.

You see, I used to deny myself emotion. I used to lock that shit up, push it back down and continue on my merry way. I learnt to do it from the environment I grew up in, the people around me. It was compounded by experiences were negative judgements and disapproval were laid on me if I showed emotion.  Hell, even society doesn’t want a crier, does it? Plus, our old primordial brain gets a bit stressed out and upset when we cry. It goes into fear and survival mode.  It screams at us:

NO! NOPE!  Distract.  Find pleasure.  BUFFER AGAINST THIS BAD FEELING (alcohol, food, whatever you like to use.)  Avoid this situation again (!)

I could feel it chattering.  I kept walking.

There was a very large slab of rock, upriver from the falls with special meaning. I was approaching it with a tidal wave rising inside of me. My mum and I used to sit on that rock.  From the age of 10 to 29 that rock has hosted a lot of memories.

I approached, heart in my throat.

It is still there, but everything around it is different. I clambered up and sat on the rock holding my baby, and my eyes began to prickle and sting.  I decided I couldn’t do backward counting anymore.  I can’t fake things anymore. I can’t deny my own emotions. I was just going to let go and go with it.

I haven’t had a grief burst in a long time.  I call them grief bursts because the sadness comes in like a cloud. It covers the sun and you can smell the rain coming.

The tears begin to flow, like a brief rainstorm.  But then, the cloud passes and the sun shines again.

Through much work, I have understood how to embrace grief and let it pass by me in this manner, like a quick rain shower, and move back into peace just as quickly. This took some deep work with a psychologist but it was well worth it. I recommend it to anyone who is still struggling with the long, pervasive grip of grief, to anyone who wants to just loosen its grip and get glimpses of sun.  Eventually you will live in beautiful sunny days with only the occasional rainstorm, and even then you’ll look up, hold your hand out and casually say “ah just a few drops, it will pass by quickly.”

I’ve learnt that emotions are like the weather. Ever-shifting, especially in Calgary (!) All of them are necessary, and a part of being human – but they do not control us.  They don’t have to control how we think, act, show up and live our lives. They are not permanent.

However, so many of us choose to make them permanent.  See the word I used there? CHOOSE.  We have a CHOICE.

Over the last few years I’ve CHOSEN to embrace grief as a passing weather event.  Even when I didn’t fully believe it, I chose to practice this approach with the faith that eventually something woud shift.  It did.

In 2018 I don’t deny myself grief and ironically, by opening my arms to it with loving kindness, it doesn’t return as often, or stay as long.

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Sitting on the rock, I thought about how I don’t fight life anymore.

I don’t avoid the hard and chase the easy anymore.

Pleasure must coexist with pain.  The only place things will be perfect, is in heaven, and to be honest, I don’t want to go to heaven yet, I have too much stuff to do here 🙂

Man did I cry my eyes out on that rock. I felt the feels. I felt my mums hand holding mine.  I cried for everything that had been washed away in that flood. I cried with the realization I am in a different place and time now, and life is always shifting and whatever else came up in that grief burst.

I cried as I felt the physical loss of my mum (though she was very much present right there in my heart that day.) . The last time I had sat on that rock was  with her, in the Autumn of 2012. We sat on that rock and pondered life.  Though we didn’t talk about dying. we did circle the topic by talking about having a purpose in life.  how a time stamp provides crystal clarity and purpose.  That she knew and had realized its about love and human connection and that all of us, ALL of us just want to be loved and accepted and appreciated and the best thing we can do is BE that loving, accepting, non judgemental person.

Gah.

ALL of that flowed through me like a little video loop in my minds eye.

That was hard.  But with great challenge comes great reward. 

Like a thunderstorm, a burst of emotion releases the pressure in our internal atmosphere and we return to normality

There is always a quiet place, where we feel at peace after big emotions.  if we can stop judging ourselves and let ourselves be with our emotions, we will just as quickly move back into peace.  We also have to practice noticing that peaceful place after an emotion burst. We can’t just become aware.  We have to practice it.

Driving back from Elbow Falls that afternoon, (my baby sleeping in the back after all that fresh mountain air) I was at peace.  When I got out of my car at the house 45 minutes later, I was not only peaceful, but I was back.

The sun was shining again, I was happy again.

Coaching helps us embrace emotions, and give them the room to flow through us, and out of us. We can gain this understanding and then practice it, and reflect on moments like the above with someone.  We can learn to shut down our brain and all of that irritating chatter and assessments that happen when we’re just trying to experience being human.  The brain and ego is not kind, and you know what, when I am crying, the last thing I need is a lack of kindness. I need loving empathy.  From myself.  Not judging from my ego.  So, you gain the ability to ignore that part.  Then, eventually, it gets the point and lets you do your emotional thing.

it is our job as a human to just be, to be with those emotions, to let them happen.

You can sit and read this blog, gain this coaching tool, but I encourage you to practice it.  When the next moment of grief or sadness arises, choose to embrace it with loving kindness.  Let it run its course.  Take the time to close down your thoughts and judgments around it.  Tell your own brain, “not now ego, it’s not about you. I’m going to experience this with love and kindness and NO judgement, so STFU.”

I invite you to do something different.  See what emerges.  If you do something different from what you’ve done before, I can guarantee you’ll get different results.

Einstein said it perfectly:

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Letting things happen on Sunday naturally, and then embracing a different way to go about things, really landed all of this home.

I cried on a rock at Elbow Falls and permanently changed.  I can’t go back now.

I can’t ‘unsee’ my new awareness.

Today I can officially declare, Grief doesn’t have a hold on me anymore.

I know it is simply a moving cloud in the sky of life.

Just like the sun must shine, the rain must fall.

But nothing is permanent.

The landsape of the Elbow Falls of my childhood was not permanent.

My mums life was not permanent.

I am not permanent.

My sadness on that rock was not permanent.

My way of seeing the world is not permanent.

Go with the flow.  Embrace that impermanence of everything.

This is a key teaching of Buddhism. Of life coaches. Of universal laws.

I just like to take these things and apply them and practice them in real life and then share what it’s like.

Know that we are always changing and evolving to a higher version of ourselves and this is a key practice to add to your toolkit on your ever-unfolding journey. 

I hope you’ll join me on this journey.

xo Carina

Essays, Grounding, Happiness, Learning, Mental health, The Fourth Trimester

Why Moms Should Practice Getting into Flow State. Tips to Overcome Post Partum Anxiety.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to what the heck happens to us on maternity leave.  Why do we become so afraid of things that were simple daily functions before (unfolding the stroller for the first time?  Going out in public with a baby for the first time?)

Seriously, where does all of this total internal doubt come from?  Why is it so bad on maternity leave?  Who is this fearful anxious person and where the hell did she come from?  

It is a strange experience to have your first baby and consequently have the shell of comfort and security cracked wide open.

EVERYTHING is new and NOTHING is comfortable in the fourth trimester.

It’s only when you look back at photos of newborn baby two years later that actually ‘enjoy’ your baby and have warm fuzzy memories.  And when you realize that you finally feel good about your mat leave a year afterwards, you’re like geez, what was I so worried about?  

I’ll tell you right now, it’s not you, it’s your brain.  It is designed to worry and keep you safe and alive, not happy and growing. 

I have come to believe (now that I’ve done it three times) that this initial torment of maternity leave and new motherhood is A GIFT.  It teaches us to overcome our own brain and our own biological instincts.

It will take me a few paragraphs to lay this idea out, so bear with me. 

We don’t like to push the edges of our comfort zones.  This is exactly why personal training as an industry exists.  Trainers push us harder than we would go.   It is a very small % of the population who push themselves beyond their comfort zone in the gym.  Usually, those people are professionals.

Having a baby is like having a personal trainer who pushes all of your comfort zones – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.

In addition to having all of our boundaries pushed, we get a bit messed up as well, because our day becomes one of many “human doing” tasks. Amongst all of the “doing” and “laundry” and “diapers” we retreat inside ourselves.  On maternity leave, our own internal chatter becomes a loud roar. There’s so much to do on the outside during maternity leave.  But there is SO MUCH MORE going on in the inside.  Massive love, massive fear, massive engagement, massive suffering, massive doubt, massive confidence.  It’s so confusing.

The fourth trimester is a time of contrasts.

There is rich growth + reflection + introspection.

There is also a hell of a lot of doubt, negative internal talk and fear.

Why? The brain and biology of a new mom screaming is a very anxious voice that is pointing out danger EVERYWHERE.  You can’t blame your brain.  It is collaborating with your hormones and nervous system to keep you and your baby alive and your hormones well tell you EVERYTHING IS DANGEROUS.  Your brain’s priority in the fourth trimester is not your happiness.  It is staying alive.

This is what your brain says to you in the fourth trimester: 

“F your sleep, you hear that baby crying?  YES.  I’m sending you panic hormones right now so that you hear every sound and snuffle, and you will definitely wake up to crying.  F your sleep.”

Your brain knows you won’t die with no sleep.  So it won’t let you.  See?  Your brain is entirely unconcerned with your happiness, your wellbeing or any of that.  It’s concerned with keeping you and babykins alive.  Basic needs.

So how do we manage this?

How do we prevent ourselves from spiralling down into a deep place of self doubt, isolation, anxiety and fear?

How do we make mat leave about growth and expansion rather than isolation and contraction?

 I really care about this topic because I contracted on the first, and somewhat on the second mat leave, and began to expand on the second and third mat leaves.

There are so many things to share with you but today, I want to share on Flow State.  It is a very specific, very intentional practice that SHUTS DOWN the parts of your brain that are concerned with doubt, self talk, anxiety, etc.  We have enough moments in our day where we worry and contract.  Let’s carve out some space in our internal worlds to trust and expand, and that starts with activities that put us in flow state.

If you’d like to dive into the science of flow state (they’ve literally scanned the brains of people in flow state) activities that get you in flow and how you can start doing it today, just click onto the next article.

https://thegreatmaternityleave.com/2018/08/21/how-to-overcome-post-partum-anxiety-with-flow-state-recovery-from-post-partum-depression/

If you read this article and thought YES, YES and YES this is me!  Then take the next step.  Learn about the science of flow state and start practising it in your life.  This is your first chance to practice growth and expansion on mat leave.  If you don’t click on the article, then you are staying where you are and staying comfortable. 🙂 That is okay too, sometimes we need to hold the boat steady, stop it from rocking.  But once it’s stopped rocking and we are ready to go somewhere, we need to put the sails back up.

(oh and sorry I HAD to use the Moana boat as an analogy.  I’m a parent of a 4 year old girl and Moana is AWESOME.  And the song lyrics are weirdly approprio for this article.)

Image result for moana boat
“See the light as it shines on the sea
It’s blinding
But no one knows how deep it goes
And it seems like it’s calling out to me
So come find me
And let me know
What’s beyond that line
Will I cross that line”
Happiness, Learning, Mental health, Personal Development, The Fourth Trimester

How to Overcome Post Partum Anxiety with Flow State. Recovery from Post Partum Depression.

Practising getting into flow state has been one of the most helpful tools in overcoming post-partum anxiety and the general fearfulness and mind chatter that has marked my three maternity leaves.

Today I wanted to share a bit of the neuro-science (in easy to understand language) and why we mamas should be intentionally practicing flow state activities (and the best part is, they are the things you LOVE doing and leave you feeling awesome.)

Hopefully this will give you an extra boost of motivation to get back into some self-care and activities sooner (assuming you’ve given your body time to heal + recover.)

When I first tried to get back into running, I did it from a place of “it’s probably good for me to be ME and get out of the house.”  However, understanding a bit of neuro-science and having solid scientific evidence as to WHY it helps, well, that’s a much more powerful motivator. I GET why it pulls me out of funks now, and tbh, I probably would have done it more consistently with my first baby had I known what was happening and why it made me feel so good (and less angsty.)

The more I study successful moms and people in general, the more I’ve realized that all of them have a flow state practice.  It’s like realizing you’re part of a secret society when you realize that all of these people do similar things.

So, the basics.  What is flow state?

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“Flow” is a term coined by a psychologist who wanted to understand a particular state of consciousness that the brain can more into. This particular brain state evokes feelings of creativity & innovation, connection, deep enjoyment, confidence, and their internal chatter and negative emotions literally switch off. People who experience this state, come out feeling greater involvement, engagement and enthusiasm in life. Personally, as someone who studies metaphysics, I think this state of conscious is really about connecting in with our deeper intuition and creativity and the divine nature of ourselves that transcends the limits of our mortal side.

But… I digress.  Back to the science.

This book was published in 2008 but I’d say this has become a topic among the public only in the last 6 or so years.  technology has advanced too, and scientists now can get people to induce flow state and then watch their brain on a functional MRI scanner to see what brain regions are lighting up.

Figuring out what makes us happy, engaged and free of internal self-doubt?

YES PLEASE.  MORE OF THAT.

Why, as mamas would we want to be in flow state? 

Because it boosts the brain centres responsible for:  Involvement, enjoyment, intrinsic motivation (Ulrich, Keller and Gron, 2015) and it tones down the brain centres responsible for negative emotions, self talk, self doubt, and attribution of negative emotions to oneself. (Grimm et al. 2009)

How do we achieve flow state?

The key is finding an activity that hits the right balance of being challenged (demand of the task) and our own skills.  Not boring, not overwhelming.  Just right.  There’s a saying in Scandinavian countries that I love “Not too much, not too little, just enough.

Moments like these are consistently reported as the most rewarding, expansive times in our lives.

They are not like the times where we are in a state of overwhelm (too much stimulation) or boredom and lack of stimulation.  In those suboptimal times, a part of the brain responsible for internal negative chatter lights up. Conversely, in flow state, that part of the brain switches off. I don’t go into it here but there are two very different cocktails of hormones and neurotransmitters that are released in these two states, as well.

Think about it in your own mat leave life. When does boredom or overwhelm rear its ugly head?  When do you experience crushing self doubt, anxiety, negativity, constant internal chatter, feeling wound up and defensive.

What tasks are you doing (or not doing)?

In overwhelm or boredom very different parts of the brain are activated.

Want more?  Watch this video on the Neurochemistry of Flow State.  

Have you noticed that you DON’T  feel these things after a task that challenges you a bit or requires your full focus and concentration? That your mind just shuts up. 

 

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There you go.  Different parts of the brain are activated, and bathed in cocktails of hormones and neurotransmitters.  Go for the good one.  Cheers. 

 

Identify Some flow State Activities.

Think about this: Where it is the right combination of skill and demand for you? It’s a place where you feel strangely satisfied.  Other clues? Time disappears in flow state and often you are in full focus or concentration.  You are fully engaged and pushing your edges just the right amount, and you don’t have time to think about other things.

Some of my flow state activities are:

Trail Running, Mountain Biking (newly discovered) and Needle Felting (newly discovered,) reading and journalling my own insights.

A Concluding Thought on Flow State and Motherhood: 

In my experiments with induced flow state, I can say with certainty that experiencing flow is to experience a fog of total wellbeing and satisfaction.  Your internal anxious mom operating system (AMOS) cools down for a bit.  The chatter of angst, anxiety, self doubt, isolation, contraction and negativity are silenced.

As that system downregulates, a new system upregulates, the fulfilled mom operating system (FMOS.)  What is that one? It is focused on possibility, connection, happiness, opportunity, content, trust, and expansion.

THIS is where we should be most of the time.  To get it back, we need to practice it and refire those parts of our brain.  we need to make time for it every day, and treat flow state activities as worthy of our time, attention and protection in our ical.  Everyone in our life benefits from a Mom operating her FMOS system. Is it worth the time in your day?  Absolutely.  In fact, the research experiments I cited above had the participants in flow state for only 3 minutes!

xo

Grounding, Happiness, Life Hacks, Mental health

How to Reset Your Mood, How to Reset Your Energy, How to Reset when You Return Home from Work to your Family

Our family is growing. (1)

You know that time… at the end of the day, when you are totally tapped out with your kids. Or, perhaps, when you are coming home from work a bit drained, and feeling entirely unprepared to step into “Mom?” with little people full of sparkles and light and energy, when that’s hardly what you are full of?   Yeah, me too.

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It’s always hard resetting our energy, our body language, our mindset and attitude.  Collectively we can call these our “disposition.” You can see dispositions in your partner too.  When they come home from work, are they still in work mode? Do they step right into family mode?  or somewhere in between?  The shift is hard, and it takes a lot of awareness.   At work I am paid to come up with ideas, be creative and be deep in thought and research whilst sitting still (mind body and emotional states are different).

At home, I am most effective as a fully present, playful, yet grounded mother.

I’m a scientific person and I like evidence, so when I heard about breathing exercises, I liked the scientific evidence that it downregulates our nervous system and rushing mind, but it didn’t quite land.  What I need is to connect the dots in my own life. I need to practice something myself and see for myself the benefits.

Years ago, I discovered a very quick and easy technique that I do literally every time I step into different roles or environments.  I’m a visual person so I like rich visuals – so once again I have engaged with my terrible water colour painting skills to help “paint” a visual of this exercise.

I originally learnt this exercise from a Navy SEAL Commander, Mark Divine and to make it connect for me, I adapted the application and visual how my brain works.

You may think at first that that world is very different from the maternity leave world, but it is not at all. For example, we are all humans, we are all working with 60,000 thoughts a day, how to not engage with all of them and stay focused on the clear priorities, values and results we want.  Some of the most useful things I have acquired from people like Mark, are super relevant in my own life.  I absolutely loved his book The Way of the Seal and most of the practices from that book, I have adapted to my own Commander Mom life, haha.

book

So, I present to you, a very quick adaptation of Commander Divine’s Box Breathing Method that is very, very useful and relevant to our life as mothers.

A Tool to Help you At the End of Your Day After a Shift, or A Day With The Kids

Ankylosing Spondylitis Journey, Happiness, health coaching, Learning, Lifestyle Design, Mental health, Personal Development, Physical Wellness

My Favourite Resources for Ankylosing Spondylitis

 

Recently Diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis_

One of the podcasts I have been listening to as I begin my journey of understanding and addressing my Ankylosing Spondylitis disease and symptoms (I am in a bad flare at present) is the AS Natural Health Podcast with Michael Eisner which has been a wonderful resource.  There are 22 episodes available.  When I began suspecting I had AS back in December, I was in Kau’ai and I will always hold such good memories of listening to the first episode where he interviews Michael Smith (Episode 12) which I particularly enjoyed.  I’ve just finished listening to all of the episodes and I’m eagerly waiting for the next. It keeps me in such a good health / growth mindset and it is incredibly inspiring and illuminating to hear others’ journeys.  Put simply, it makes you feel a little less alone.  Statistically, AS afflicts hundreds of people in each city, but nobody I’ve spoken to has any idea what it is, or have heard of it.  And certainly no other ladies in their 30s with kids.  So, the value of Podcasts, among the many benefits, is feeling a bit less alone.  So thank you, Michael!  Keep doing what you are doing.

In my last post, I talked about how there’s two distinct paths you can go down in the days of diagnosis.

One is fear, fixed mindsets, believing that this problem is permanent, incurable and pervasive, and one that IS your life. I dabbled in a bit of this for a few days and it was a bit terrifying.  Oh, and my flare was terrible, I didn’t sleep, and I made terrible nutritional choices that I KNOW don’t work well with my body (those I knew pre-AS diagnosis.)

The other path is courage, growth mindsets, believing that you have been pain free and you will be again, that it is a very fluid and impermanent condition, that it is only a minor piece of your life.

I decided that the only acceptable path for me is the latter path, and I began to seek out people, podcasts, blogs, resources that would help me begin this journey of rich growth and deep personal healing.

The internet is so amazing, because there is something for every belief, and EVERY path you want to take in tackling this diagnosis and your symptoms.

From my listening to podcasts, reading blogs, watching videos, participating in facebook communities and connecting with others who have healed there are a few pieces I’m adding to my toolkit in the coming days, and it has been a really fun enlightening journey so far (if there’s one thing I really enjoy it is learning.)

So, here are some really helpful resources if you, like me, have been diagnosed with AS and have decided the latter path is the only one forward.

People:

Michael Eisner of the Ankylosing Spondylitis Natural Health Podcast interviews people who have successfully put AS into remission. This is what I started with, while I was on maternity leave, listening to each episode on walks with my baby (bonus:  hour walk and stretching!)

Peter Winslow and the Community of People at AS Victors.Com who share their successes.  There is a vast library of resources. I can’t wait to read Winslow’s Heal for Real book.  One thing at a time though.  It’s deep work. Don’t dive into all of these resources at once!   His blog is a wonderful resource as well.  Take a topic at a time.

Ralph Ruiz, Professional Life Coach and his Website & Facebook Group, Mindbody Healing.    His Youtube video series AS I see it is amazing and so deeply insightful.  Honestly, buy a journal and work through things with him.

I am currently (very slowly) working through John Sarno, M.D. Healing Back Pain:  The Mind-Body Connection.  This is kind of my main starting point of immersion.

This book is confirming so many things I was beginning to suspect and many describe this book as “blowing their world apart.”  Again, deep work and insights.  I personally am reading it on kindle because, well, small children, but wish I had a paper copy so I could write ALL over it.  I am highlighting so many things in this book and going to my “healing journal” with thoughts, insights and things to process.

Finally, the most important book and resource in this process?

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A blank one.  My mermaid journal. I bought this in Kau’ai in December when I decided I was ready to begin this healing journey.  The true work is the inner work, and by putting pen to paper, I am finding that I am able to access deeper thoughts, and feelings, and dive deeper into unconscious and subconscious beliefs, programming and repressed things which I am sure on many levels have contributed to this inflammation and pain.  As I work through things, have insights, collect knowledge or experience shifts in my observer / the lens I see through, I record them here.  With doodles, pictures, even long rambling free writing sessions to allow things to come through my hand and the ink flowing on the paper.  This, this is the single most important piece.  If you’ve never bought a journal or had the chance to bring this practice into your life, perhaps now is the time. 🙂  Pick a beautiful one that speaks to you, and find a nice pen.  You deserve it.

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