This is always true.
Except when it’s not.
Except when it’s not.
Finding yourself with no room to breathe? It’s especially challenging during this time of year, when we’re rushing around, fighting the traffic, ticking off our list of things to get—hurrying up so we can sit around the hearth, expressing our gratitude, with people we love, but don’t always enjoy.
Here are a couple of simple suggestions.
Take a moment to breathe. Sit or stand still. Exhale deeply. Exhale a little more. And a little more. Hold the breath out. Pause. Wait until it’s time to inhale. Let the air in and notice where the air goes. Pause. Repeat. And repeat again, as often as you like.
A thoughtful client recently reminded me that I’d told her that it’s nearly impossible to feel negative emotions and breathe deeply at the same time. I love my clients. We learn so much from one another.
If you’re around other people, look someone in the eyes and smile. Watch the response. Turns out the smile is contagious. Scientists might call it “activating the mirror neurons.” Thanks to Mel Robbins for this idea—it really works! If you’re alone, try smiling anyway. It’s good for you.
Happy Thanksgiving. I wish you much abundance, wonderful people to love and enjoy, and some breathing room.
P.S. Please leave comments to let me know how these exercises work for you, or to share other strategies you use to find breathing room.
Bright and shiny objects are great for diversionary tactics. Don’t want someone to notice a few flaws? Surround them with bling, and what people will mostly see is bling. Don’t want anyone to notice that your dining room needs painting? Turn the lights down low, and set the table with cut crystal and candlelight. The tone becomes romantic in a sparkly kind of way.
You probably do the same thing in your life’s work. Got something really important to do, but you’re not sure where to start? Got something that you really want to have or be or achieve, but you’re not sure if you’re smart enough, good enough, deserving enough? You can distract yourself with bright and shiny objects—bright ideas and shiny enthusiasm for something that’s easier, simpler, and probably not as important as what you’re avoiding.
How do you distinguish the real stuff from “fool’s gold”? The real stuff keeps coming back. You might get nervous about it, avoid it, approach it, circle around it, whatever—but it keeps coming back. The real stuff makes your heart sing, makes the world a better place for you, and when you’re in the middle of it, you’re unselfconscious and have no sense of time.
There’s nothing wrong with fool’s gold. It’s bright and shiny, fun and entertaining for a while. There’s nothing wrong with it unless or until it gets old and boring, and you get resentful and realize that it’s distracting you from what you really want to be and do.
What are the bright and shiny objects in your life? What’s keeping you busy and distracted? What is it that you really want to be and do? What’s keeping you from being and doing what you really want? Fear, anxiety, old stories about what you deserve? What might happen if you faced those obstacles and moved deliberately and strategically toward what you really want to be and do? Who knows what’s possible? Wouldn’t it be fun to find out?
Don’t you just hate it when your friends are right? Especially when it means you’ve got to dig a little deeper and do what you’re capable of doing. When they see your capacity to show up, to produce, to do great work, even when you are about to settle for good enough. When you are about to be a little lazy and deliver a product that’s not as good as it ought to be.
On our own, it’s easy to make excuses. It’s easy to say there isn’t enough time, or talent, or resources. It’s tempting to hide behind the excuses and play it safe, take the easy route.
But a good friend, a wise mentor, someone who sees you for who you are, will not let you show up that way, any more than they’d let you go out half dressed. They are not oblivious to your faults, but they treasure your talents and won’t let you forget them.
And, oh, aren’t we grateful for those very same friends! They see right through our reluctance and resistance and anxiety. They see our capacities, they have confidence in us when we have doubt, and they encourage us not to settle for being and doing less than our best.
Thank you, friends.
Who in your life has confidence that’s greater than your doubt? Who in your life loves you enough to tell you when you’re holding back? Who in your life cares enough to take a chance on offending you, because they see the larger, better you? Who in your life does this and still loves you as you are?
Go. Find those people and thank them. And be that kind of friend or mentor in someone else’s life.
And, if you don’t have people like that in your life, let’s talk about how to find them, how to find and nurture relationships that help you to be and do your best.
I was thinking a lot about money this morning. The money I have. The money I don’t have. I went down a few “rabbit trails”—you know, those meandering pathways that wander far and wide, but don’t always end up somewhere that you meant to be. One was the “What would I do if the money were taken care of?” trail. It was a beautiful trail with lovely colors and scenes and lots of fun and creativity. Nice.
Then I went down an unusual trail—”What would I have to give up or leave behind, if the money were taken care of?” Anxiety, fear, excuses, constraints…. Might be nice to leave those behind.
And “What would I do differently, today, this morning, if the money were taken care of?” I’d finish typing this blog, pack my bag, and drive to Baton Rouge to visit some friends and family. Oh, that’s what I was going to do anyway.
What would you do if the money were taken care of? What would you leave behind? What would be different?
Some days are foggy. Flights get cancelled. Traffic slows down. Meetings are postponed. Not much choice: ready or not, life slows down. We usually don’t like it when we’re forced to slow down. We’ve got places to go and things to do, and we don’t like interference. But every now and then, it’s nice to slow down and “feel your way” through an experience.
Explaining his work in the field of human functioning and self-awareness, Moshe Feldenkrais, founder of the Feldenkrais Method, invoked the Weber-Fechner law, which attempts to describe the relationship between the magnitudes of stimuli and our ability to perceive differences among them. He asserted that at a slower pace, with smaller movements—on a foggy day, maybe—we can get more clarity. If we slow down enough to pay attention, we can learn something new about how we move, how we put one foot in front of the other, what it takes to get us moving, how we find our way in a confusing environment.
Coaching is useful on those foggy days. Something interferes with your life and you need to get your bearings. Coaching can bring some light—not the high beams that bounce off the fog and create glare, but the low beams that focus on the ground right in front of you, the ground you might otherwise not have noticed. In coaching, we look at how you move, what propels you forward, and what slows you down. As daylight increases and burns away the fog, you can move forward with greater ease and grace because of what you’ve learned.
What’s interfering in your life? What creates the fog? Where might you shine some light and learn to move a little easier?
I never dreamed that coaching would change my life so dramatically. I was a skeptic who needed help making a decision, although I wasn’t aware of this need at the time.
I started seeing Gika about four years ago. I had been living in Oregon finishing up my master’s degree and planning to live there for the rest of my life when I hurt my back pretty badly. So badly that I found it difficult to walk because of the constant pain that shot through my lower left side, through my hip and down my leg. The fact that I lived rurally with just the basic amenities and that it was winter in the Pacific Northwest did not help the situation. I was cold and sore. I was a wreck physically, unable to grow food, which was my job at the time, or even to put on my own socks.
But I was also a wreck emotionally. I found myself crying more often than not. Scared that I would not be able to come out of this downspout, I decided to use the little money I had to travel back to Texas and spend an extended Christmas with my family. I resolved to get some sun and some more chiropractic attention and then return to Oregon at the end of January.
There was just one problem. I still felt stressed out and confused about my life and my plan. I didn’t know what to do; I should have wanted to go to Oregon. After all, I had friends there, and it’s beautiful. “People there have values that align with my own,” I told myself. Regardless of these reasons, I could not feel good about going back to Oregon, and I couldn’t say no to it either.
Then I got a phone call one day from a good friend who happens to be Gika’s daughter. She said that her mom, whom I only knew casually, was starting up a new coaching business, and she might be able to help me. I should try it. What could I lose? At the end of that first session, I decided to stay in Texas. I was jobless, penniless, and still in physical pain, but I felt total peace about my decision.
My experience in that coaching session—and every session I’ve had with Gika—is that she gets curious about me and about what’s going on with me. Out of that curiosity comes question after question. Through answering these questions, I am able to clarify my goals, my hopes and dreams, and my desires. For me, coaching is more relevant than counseling because we talk about the here and now. We might hit on a situation from the past, but we don’t dwell on it or over-analyze it. The old stuff is a stepping stone, a back-story, to what is happening right now in my life. Gika also gives me relevant and fun activities to do that help me continue my process when I’m not seeing her, like collage and journaling.
In the years since I moved back to Texas, I have clarified what I want and don’t want. I have regained my strength in every way. I have experienced forgiveness of myself and of the people closest to me. I have accepted my dark side and embraced my light. I have truly accepted help and relied on another human being for the first time in my life. And all of this has rippled out into every corner of my life. Gandhi said, “Change yourself, change the world,” and I have experienced this change through my coaching relationship with Gika. I am so grateful.
Gika says: Coaching Cynthia was sprinkled with surprise and delight. She arrived willing to work hard, to look directly at what she wanted to change, and ready to move forward. She’s an awesome example of how much this kind of work can change your life. Who knew it could be so much fun! Thanks, Cynthia.
Cynthia is a native Texan who has lived and traveled all over the U.S. She loves being in nature, and this love has led her to complete her master’s degree in environmental education. Cynthia currently works with a small conservancy.