ARE YOU COMMITTED OR CODEPENDENT?

Wellness CoachingSpeakingWORKSHOPS

“They [Co-dependents] have worried themselves sick about other people. They have tried to help in ways that didn’t help. They have said yes when they meant no.They have tried to make other people see things their way. They have bent over backwards avoiding hurting people’s feelings and, in so doing, have hurt themselves. They have been afraid to trust their feelings. They have believed lies and then felt betrayed.They have wanted to get even and punish others. They have felt so angry they wanted to kill.They have struggled for their rights while other people said they didn’t have any..”― Melody Beattie

Aretha and Evan

Aretha and Ethan have been married for 12 years. Within the last three years Ethan’s moods have changed. The new job hasn’t turned out to be rewarding due to bad office politics. Ethan comes home irritable, demanding and closed off. Instead of dealing with his emotions and dislike for the job, he drinks a six-pack of beer a few times a week and even more on weekends.

Aretha is a stay-at-home wife. As a full-time caregiver, she spends time cooking, cleaning, shopping and caring for their pets. Ethan is one of the few people she regularly spends time with. Aretha spends hours listening to him complain about his work scene. They discuss almost nothing beyond who did what to whom at work. Aretha justifies Ethan’s drinking as a means to let off steam and relax.

For months on end Aretha and Ethan cycle through the same routine – work, household chores, complaining and drinking. Aretha’s tolerance for the negativity and drinking is beginning to wane. She notices they no longer share their dreams as a couple. Their bedroom life somehow disappeared. Aretha feels alone, confused and mad.

“Why does my life revolve around Ethan in unhealthy ways? Is it his job or the drinking which is turning me into a control freak? My need to constantly fix him or fix things for him is over the top. I am losing my identity as a person.

My feelings are all over the place.

One minute I am judgmental and hurt, the next minute I am warm and fuzzy. I want us to be close, but fear Ethan will reject me when I stand up for myself. I don’t want to hurt him. But I can no longer walk on eggshells in order to avoid an argument.

What about Ethan constantly triggers my anger and insecurities? It’s getting to the point where I no longer wish to take his calls or texts. I need help.”

The negativity slowly takes a toll on Aretha’s body. She experiences an array of different symptoms: heart palpitations, headaches and stomach aches.

Codependent or Committed?

Aretha confides to a trusted friend about her mental confusion and emotional pain. She feels guilty casting a negative shadow on her marriage relationship. After all, everyone seems to believe the narrative that they are the “perfect couple and don’t have problems.”

Aretha’s friend suggests she speak to a wellness coach to help sort out jumbled feelings. Aretha learns about a concept called codependency. She searches online for a better understanding and discovers Codependents Anonymous. The codependent definition resonates deeply with Aretha.

““Somewhere along the line, we learned to doubt our perception, discount our feelings, and overlook our needs. We looked to others to tell us what to think, feel, and behave. Other people supplied us with information about who we were and should be.

It became more important to be compliant or avoidant rather than to be authentic, and we adopted rigid beliefs about what “should be.” We believed that if we could just “get it right,” things would be okay. When we “got it wrong,” our sense of security and self-worth evaporated.”

— Codependents Anonymous

Recognition and shame set in for Aretha. Her gut and heart give her clear signals which indicate she is coming upon a long-buried inner wound.LEARN MORE

Codependency and Fantasy

Living in fantasy is difficult. Codependents appear like other people when it comes to household and professional responsibilities. Yet they have the added burden of hovering over someone else or even more than one person, such as an entire family or group.

They no longer are capable of separating their thoughts, emotions and money from their co-dependent object or objects. The False Self embodies what it means to be codependent.

Fantasy is the cornerstone of codependent relationships. The inner world of co-dependents relies on faulty misconceptions. Here are some of the false commandments codependents blindly follow:

  1. If the other person or relationship improves, I will effortlessly return to normal. My mission is to figure out the perfect solution.
  2. It’s the other person’s fault that I am overweight, depressed, guilty, etc.
  3. I hold the key to the other person’s healing. Without me the other person will fail/die/fall apart.
  4. I am not enough for the other person.
  5. I provide what the other person didn’t get before we met (love, money, sex, etc.).
  6. Worry and guilt comprise a large portion of my love definition.
  7. I can help or alleviate difficulties for the other person.
  8. My happiness is solely dependent on the other’s happiness.
  9. If the other person doesn’t do well, it will affect my reputation.
  10. I turn the other cheek/close my eyes and pretend I forgive the other. However I carry the pain of being hurt.

Aretha’s Old Fantasy Story:

Marriage means being there for your spouse but I am failing Ethan. Regardless of how much time I spend listening to his stories about work, I can’t make him feel better. Is his increased use of alcohol a sign that he is unhappy in the relationship? Why doesn’t he find me attractive anymore?

Is there anything I can give him so that we can get back on track with our marriage? Will Ethan ever take care of me in a way that isn’t disappointing or lacking effort? Will he ever be emotionally available to me?

I’m tired of looking in the mirror and seeing someone who is run down, lonely and scared. I’m tired of pretending to be happy in front of my friends and family. I’m tired of defending myself, my needs and my dreams.

I’m tired of the ongoing pain in my body but I won’t complain about it in front of Ethan. He will see me as weak and helpless. Plus I don’t want to bother him or anyone else with my problems. No one wants to hear me whine.

CLEARING NEGATIVITY

Committed to Truth

Relationships rooted in Peace, Love and Joy (Truth) possess ease and grace. Although egos attempt to set up scenarios for conflict, long-term sustainability lives in deeper truths. Commitment means honoring the Me (each person) and making room to honor the We. Codependents spend more time in the Me because the We doesn’t feel safe or steady.

Until codependents reach a breaking point, they don’t appreciate this definition of commitment. Until codependents feel the nudge toward humility and openness they continue to behave from a place of fantasy and stress. Until codependents believe their feelings, presence and dreams matter – they can’t release the drama that seems to follow them around.

Truth is the foundation of commitment. Committed relationships thrive from a place of clarity, strength and flexibility. Here are the commandments of commitment.

  1. We are equal and worthy of Peace, Love and Joy in this relationship.
  2. Forgiveness allows us to recover from ego set ups and practice love from a higher place.
  3. We are free to enjoy pursuits and relationships outside of the We.
  4. We choose partnership based on safety, honesty and openness.
  5. We hold space for our beloved so s/he can heal and be responsible for his/her own wellbeing.
  6. We try to be considerate, respectful and trusting with each other.
  7. We are enough for each other.
  8. We laugh at the ego and the quirkiness of life.
  9. We are present to and for each other.
  10. We stand for and practice relationship with gratitude.

Through coaching Aretha slowly makes strides to better understand herself. She is unsure where her marriage is headed, but feels stronger and more authentic that she has found a way to express herself.

Aretha’s New Authentic Story

Taking ownership for my part in the marriage has been a challenging experience. Coach has given me reading materials and a journal to understand the patterns, choices and behaviors that got me to this point.

I feel supported and am learning to change from a place of strength. Each I learn to express my wishes to friends and family. My requests may be denied, but I feel stronger in myself knowing I’ve expressed my genuine feelings.

Even though there is a lot of work ahead, my priority is to create healthy relationships with myself and others. My priority is to listen to and take care of my body. This is my first attempt at authentic commitment.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SPIRITUAL BYPASSING

Exhaustion settles in

LuAnn is burned out from daily life. A single mom of two and mental health professional, COVID-19 has turned her life upside down. Since the pandemic and fear of exposure, she hasn’t been able to drop off the kids at her parents’. The kids play video games with their friends while she works. The family eat breakfast and lunch together, but scatter in different directions for dinner. LuAnn has small pockets of alone time to catch up with social media, friends or a 10-minute outside jog around the house.

Instead of going to the office, she now spends hours with clients on video chat. The basement laundry room is her new office location so the kids don’t overhear conversations. Clients report increased anxiety and new fears. There is no certainty when or if clients will return to – even remember – the primary reason they sought therapy.

LuAnn has created an unsettled yet manageable daily routine. Life is starting to open again and she makes plans for the kids’ summer camp. She looks forward to free time to meditate and practice yoga. She is excited that summer plans include quality social experiences for the kids.

A second plot twist

What is bothering LuAnn? Her never-ending workload? Quarantine? Racism? Lack of self-awareness?

Her world takes another turn on May 25th. A friend texts to tell her to turn on the TV. A Black man named George Floyd dies at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. LuAnn barely absorbs the details. Since the pandemic she stores frustrations inside her heart and prioritizes the healing of others.

Mr. Floyd’s death precipitates LuAnn’s ensuing emotional breakdowns. Her feelings ricochet from broken-hearted to raging. LuAnn feels vulnerable and afraid for the safety of her Caucasian kids in this unpredictable atmosphere.

A sense of overwhelm floods her. Her mind churns while laying in bed. Will her clients’ concerns segue from chatter around the pandemic to racism? Will a familiar world ever return?

Rather than addressing her emotional instability, LuAnn reverts to hand-me-down spiritual teachings to calm herself. Since childhood LuAnn has used the Bible to interpret events and to excuse herself from sharing opinions and expressing emotions.

When colleagues want to talk about racism and the accompanying tension, she reacts instantly with the tried and true words she uses in times of struggle: “I’m not worried. God is in charge.” LuAnn doesn’t want to engage with the topic – she rationalizes to herself that she has enough drama.

Scrolling Instagram posts, LuAnn reads a series of chastising comments accusing a well-known person of “spiritual bystanding.” Is this the latest way to accost people who avoid discussing race issues? LuAnn initially becomes irritated with herself for reading the comments. She is triggered, but denies that the post affects her.

After all, she never discusses race and believes that deep down she loves everyone regardless of color and ethnicity. She believes that no one could accuse her of being like those who feel entitled and better than others.

LuAnn’s wants help

After a week of high stress, poor sleep and lack of appetite LuAnn hits a wall. She forgets a client video call and screams at the kids. The world seems to be closing in. Happiness is nowhere to be found. A colleague helps connect her with a professional coach. LuAnn hopes to better:

  • Understand the impact of the virus pandemic and the arrested man’s killing
  • Reduce stress and overwhelm
  • Ask others for help

Understanding the impact of recent events

LuAnn’s coach imparts the meaning of Spiritual Bystanding, a term coined by psychotherapist John Welwood. A psychological defense mechanism, Spiritual Bypassing represents

“spiritual ideas and practices used to deflect or sidestep personal, emotional ‘unfinished business,’ to shore up a shaky sense of self, or to belittle basic needs, feelings, and developmental tasks….when spiritual practice is used to replace or compensate for challenging traits such as low self-esteem, social isolation, or other emotional issues they corrupt the usage of spiritual practice.

— John WelwoodWORKING IT THROUGH

Tuning into guidance

In session, LuAnn closes her eyes and begins deep breathing. Coach asks her to tune into the three intuitive centers (belly, heart, mind) to gain insight on where and how she carries the stories of the pandemic and killing.

Using the symbol of a horse to connect to her inner awareness, LuAnn is asked to answer these questions: What does the horse look like? What is it doing? Where is it?

LuAnn relaxes her body and initially places her hands on top of the navel.

“I see a horse running loose and wild. It is locked inside a tall fence with barely enough space to roam. The horse looks frightened and alone.”

Next LuAnn places her hands on her heart.

“The horse seems passive and subdued. It’s as if it is drugged and doesn’t have a mind of its own. I am saddened at the sight of this deflated animal.”

Lastly LuAnn places her hands on both sides of her head.

“The horse is galloping in an open field. It takes frequent breaks for water and rest. It is free.”

The exercise goal is to create coherence with the belly, heart and mind. LuAnn’s three intuitive centers are out of alignment. Because of the constant running between clients and kids, she is unaware of how much the current isolation has blocked her ability to trust her gut. The chaos has taken over and drains her of finding strength and hope.

Although the heart intends to offer comfort and self-love, LuAnn is numb to the world outside her home. It’s easier to pretend everything is okay. She over-compensates for bad times by over-emphasizing positivity and avoiding negativity.

When she can’t follow her heart, LuAnn slips into detachment, sarcasm and separation from others. Without an appreciation for the necessity of community and its opportunities to share her struggles, LuAnn doesn’t realize fully that what she resists persists.

The intuitive mind is not aligned with the belly and heart. LuAnn’s imaginations and dreams haven’t been nurtured in a long while, a sign she’s in survival mode. Ego has assumed a leadership position and dominates LuAnn’s every move. Until she values freedom over the isolation which creates stress and avoidance, she will remain in this state of burn-out and confusion.

The intuition exercise brings LuAnn newfound awareness. Coach recommends three tools to facilitate healing and alignment:

  1. CuriosityWith Coach, LuAnn works through uncomfortable questions such as:Why am I angry? Why do I think I am exempt when considering racism? Am I a racist? Why do I negatively judge others who willingly discuss this subject?
  2. ClarityLuAnn becomes clearer about misusing her default spirituality to avoid current discussions of COVID-19 and racial tension:Why do I place others’ needs before my own? Where did I learn to disconnect from my feelings? Why do I automatically turn to my upbringing spirituality and reject conversation? What created my strong intolerance for dealing with sensitive issues?
  3. CourageLuAnn recognizes that the pain of the last few months is leading to a fresh understanding of what it means to be genuinely spiritual. She reads Psychotherapist Ingrid Clayton’s article which suggests that bravely staying present allows something deeper to happen.

“There is something very necessary about being who and where I am. I understand this is a tall order. If I become present to who I am, all of me,
there is a lot there I usually don’t want to see.

”What I don’t want to see consists of shame, anxiety, anger, loneliness, self-loathing, our “dark” side, and the list goes on. Hey, who wants to be present to all this?

But the more that I try to rise above it, or turn my back to it—the more it lingers and grows. Finally I must turn around and face my fears.

The most amazing thing happens. My shadow doesn’t swallow me whole. By recognizing the “dark” stuff I can finally experience and own what is “light.”

I can finally see the good stuff once I take responsibility for the stuff that isn’t as shiny on the outside. These are the real fruits of spiritual and psychological development.

We stop running and return to loving ourselves.Unrealistic expectations promote shame. Sharing our thoughts and experiences open us. Genuine spirituality helps us rest and accept our human condition.

Let’s be kind to one another as together we navigate the inherent challenges of acceptingall aspects of mind, body, and spirit.

WHY IS FREEDOM UNCOMFORTABLE?

“Freedom is an inner feeling. It is the ability to choose what you want. It is the knowledge that you are the captain of your ship. Freedom is knowing that you own your own life, that you are in charge. Freedom is essential for Joy, for anywhere you feel trapped or feel someone has taken away your rights, you cannot experience Joy.

— Orin – Sanaya Roman

Why does freedom mean so much to us?

When negative energy is in the air we get itchy and ache for freedom. The quest to be free (and stay free) is our life practice. What does this mean in today’s world?

A single man in his early 30s, Luis struggles with depression and anxiety. Although the idea of being in a relationship sounds wonderful, he doubts he is worthy of long-term love. Luis awakens every day with his habitual mind charging down the same worn-out mental path.

“What is wrong with me? Why doesn’t anyone want me? If someone would get to know me they would see I’m a good person. I notice that a lack of human contact affects my energy levels. I lose enthusiasm towards others and negatively perceive myself.”

We assume it’s easy to see that Luis sees himself as broken, unwanted and lacking confidence. However, the largest missing piece in this story is Luis’ belief that he lacks freedom. He yearns to be free of the messy version of himself which is complex, complicated and dramatic.

If we struggle with a lack of love like Luis, it feels as if we are relentlessly sitting at the bottom of the barrel. We ache for truth. Why are we in this position? It’s because we choose to anchor our minds in mud, our hearts in the sand and our emotions in water. These elements keep us stuck and our feelings are all over the place.

This is suffering, not freedom. Yet we are habituated to sitting in the same barrel bottom and reciting the same tired messages. We fear freedom’s call to release the binding tethers to our “loser” selves, despite the rich rewards which await our courage to act on behalf of our higher selves.

The only real prison is fear, and the only real freedom is freedom from fear. – Aung San Suu Kyi

Is freedom uncomfortable?

Luis’ answers to these questions offer us insight into a mind’s lack of freedom.

Who takes away my power?

My relationship with my mother drains my power. I didn’t get much attention as a kid. Obtaining her love means staying out of her hair. She rarely praises me and I’m unsure if I matter to her. She’s had multiple marriages and chooses abuse over living alone.

I feel confused about what constitutes a healthy relationship. Alcohol keeps me company and is my escape hatch from isolation’s pain.

What holds me back from pursuing a relationship?

Fear keeps me from dating. What if I get rejected? Do something wrong? Say something hurtful?

Where does lack of freedom show up in my life?

Lack of freedom perpetuates my negative self-limiting beliefs. My self-focus cheats me from the time to offer love to someone else. I scatter my thoughts and feelings attempting to deal with the pain of being alone.

Why do I choose struggle over freedom?

I struggle a lot because it’s all I know. It’s less scary than trying something else. I mentally fling myself into the future, addicted to worrying about being alone. I sometimes plunge into fantasy about finding love and living happily ever after.

When will I decide to commit to Peace, Love and Joy (source of true freedom)?

Who knows if I’m ready to live in Peace, Love and Joy right now? I just want to be in love and have someone love me back.LEARN MORE

Choosing Freedom First

Luis reaches a breaking point when two of his friends marry within a span of mere weeks. Amidst celebrations he passes out from over-drinking. Desperate to numb his heart’s pain, he chooses to drink and mask his feelings.

The next morning Luis feels worse. He is embarrassed by his out-of-control behavior in front of his friends and realizes it’s time for help and calls a coach

Luis finally figured something out: he does not want to drink his problems away. He wants to be free of loneliness. This startling breakthrough propels him into action. He realizes it’s time to work with a Wellness Coach and move closer to his dream of being in a relationship.

Ready to assume responsibility for his past choices, Luis is clear about choosing freedom first instead of constant pain. With coach’s support, Luis begins to imagine and define his own freedom.

“I am done with spending days and weeks without speaking to a friend or engaging my efforts to meet a romantic partner. It’s not fun staring out the window, looking at couples and families getting on with their lives. I long to go out, meet up with others, and engage in stimulating conversations.

I now choose to be bigger than my struggles. Today I choose to say “yes” to life. I’ve been dragging in the mud for so long I had no idea that Peace, Love and Joy represent true freedom.

Instead of choosing loneliness, I choose Peace. Instead of choosing unworthiness, I choose Love. Instead of choosing sadness, I choose Joy. I have plenty of time and energy to invest in love.”

Luis’ words of freedom:

I am free.

I am free to be myself.

I am free to imagine a better world.

I am free to play and enjoy life.

I am free of the need for approval from others.

I am free to dream and pursue my dreams.

Practicing Freedom = Freedom

Luis wants to let go of restraints on his freedom. By focusing on the here and now he is grateful for each day. Coach reminds him that his hope is a signal which announces his attitude is changing for the better. Luis wakes up grateful for what he already has, and trusts this is the proper message to put out so that love comes in.

Luis rightfully concludes that bravely surrendering desperation and replacing it with dedication towards personal freedom is worth a try.

2020 RESOLUTIONS: FORGOTTEN? LOST? EXISTENT?

Uncertainty’s Uncomfortable Distractions

Has COVID-19 halted your New Year’s Resolutions’ momentum? Or have you defaulted to procrastination and forgetfulness?

The detours of 2020

“There’s a huge difference between surviving and thriving. Survive means to “continue to live or exist, especially despite danger or hardship.” Thrive means to “prosper, be fortunate or successful, to grow or develop vigorously; flourish.”

Survive mode is characterized by:
Choosing the path with the least resistance
Experiencing lack rather than abundanceReacting rather than responding
Complaining and blaming others for your circumstances
Feeling inauthentic and stuck

Fearing failure and viewing it as a sign that things are going wrong instead of seeing it as a necessary part of success.

— Dr. Ellen Albertson, Ph.D., RDN, CD, CPHWC

COVID-19

The global crisis forces us to slow down our fast pace. Although choices are limited when it comes to socializing and planning vacations, the last thing on most people’s minds is how to bring their resolutions to life. Uncertainty powerfully holds our minds and hearts hostage to fear instead of flow.

Our sense of security and comfort is compromised as we stampede through the door named Survival. Resolution-keeping activities are postponed, even deemed irrelevant as a threat of pandemic illness looms and economic downturn threatens.

Anti-racism

The senseless murder of Mr. Floyd ignites a worldwide conversation. The racial protests coincide with staying-at-home and looking for freshly purposeful ways to engage with others. Fundamental changes are possible by attuning our hearts to acceptance and compassion.

We question our country’s survival as it is torn asunder by unresolved wounds. The multiple choices are to hide, ignore, or advocate for lasting action. Unfortunately, New Year’s resolution activities are scuttled and forgotten.

Our sense of reality has questioned our ability to survive in a country torn by a long-time wound called racism. The choices we face are to hide, ignore, or advocate for lasting action. Resolution-keeping activities are filed away in the “miscellaneous” folder with all of the other resolutions we have conjured up over the years but lost their mojo for some reason.

Presidential elections

Defining leadership is not simple these days. Some of us abhor and struggle with the actions of global leaders while others admire and appreciate their leadership. Speculation swirls around how people will vote. Will we cast our ballots out of fear and separation or based on empathy and trust?

Resolution-promoting activities are lost in the debates over power and influence. Our resolutions are suspended due to these precarious times. We proceed in our daily lives, unsure of how to express our opinions to family and friends. We become emotionally disturbed just listening to a brief TV or online broadcast discussing current events.

That now brings us to July 2020, the half-way point to crossing over to a new and awaiting threshold into New Year 2021! Do our resolutions have a fighting chance? Can we bring our resolutions back into the light and into our imaginations? Absolutely.

Thrive mode is an experience described as PERMA by positive psychologist Martin Seligman:

  • Positive emotions
  • Engagement and flow
  • Positive Relationships
  • Meaning
  • Accomplishment

LIGHT UP 2020

Gary’s 2020 resolution: To be more grateful

In 2019 Gary experienced a series of losses: the ending of his 15-year marriage to Sophie, the death of his best friend, and his daughter’s move out of state. His heart and mind took months to recover from the loneliness, depression, and lack of belonging.

Determined to write a new life chapter, Gary made his resolution to become grateful for what he has, instead of focusing on what is missing. He attends a live workshop and coaching to stay accountable. He notices results: a feeling of ease, a softer heart, and renewed confidence to stay true to his commitments.

Several months later with the onset of COVID-19, Gary reverts to his familiar sadness and grief patterns. He is sensitive to taking on more loss. News of racial tensions heightens other feelings of overwhelm. He can’t even begin to think about the upcoming presidential elections. He fears coming to the brink.

Gary’s recent 2020 resolutions recede in importance and seem like a waste of time. New priorities are to stay healthy, keep pace with virus protocol updates, and meet changing job demands. Yet his heart doesn’t let him off the resolution hook.

After a few weeks of ignoring daily gratitude, Gary notices his negative shift. He doesn’t like it. He imagines that his gratitude efforts have evaporated into nothing. These are signs he is in survival mode, living day by day without fulfillment.

Gary’s turning point comes when he reaches out to other attendees of his Resolution Workshop at year’s beginning. They encourage him to return to his daily 30-minute gratitude focus. Gary realizes that his gratitude teachings bring him to this awareness: mere survival is not a life he wants for himself or those whom he loves and affects.

Gary starts to feel better. He walks in the park and rises early for sunrises. He finds the courage to clear the wreckage churning in his mind and heart. Gary appreciates that changing his behavior and mindset is not easy and requires conscious effort.

He notices a change in his thinking and increased self-confidence. He attends another Resolution Workshop to join others who want the Year 2020 to be remembered from a positive perspective.

By enjoying the little things like walking in the park and watching sunrises Gary starts to feel better. He finds the courage to clear the wreckages of his mind and heart. He is clear that changing both behavior and mindset is not easy but it certainly is worth the effort.

Within a short time, he notices a change in his thinking and grain in his self-confidence. He attends another resolution workshop to be around others who want 2020 to be remembered with less stress and more meaning.

Would you like a Happy Ending to your year?

Join me and Yoga Teacher Tiffany Barbarine for an outdoor workshop. Together with you, we will focus on thriving through 2020.

Light Up 2020 includes guided meditation, yoga, and sound bowls in a private setting. This event is selling out quickly. Reward yourself with this relaxing and refreshing experience to invigorate your commitment to a healthy and memorable 2020.

YOU GOT MAIL…SO WHAT?

“Huffington Post asking people about their experience in the workplace. One of the questions was about email. Out of 1200 respondents, some 60 percent said they spend less than two waking hours a day completely disconnected from email.

— Harvard Business ReviewCOACHING FOR SUCCESS

After months of non-stop work and prolonged computer time, Stanley crashes. His brain struggles to focus. Anxiety mounts as emails accumulate. Stanley can’t keep up. He’s on edge his co-workers will judge him non-responsive if he doesn’t answer an email within the hour.

While walking in the park with a close friend, Stanley checks “work messages.” His friend asks: “Stanley, why are you on the phone? Aren’t we here to spend quality time?” Stanley shuts down his phone, irked that his friend has legitimately called him out.

Although accustomed to exercising, Stanley now forgoes a regular workout. Upon stepping on the scale, Stanley fumes and curses at the pandemic for causing his midriff tire.

Most people don’t recognize e-mail checking as a genuine addiction. Yet if we apply this obsessive habit to eating candy, how many sweets might we consume a day? Might this level of snacking lead to other problems such as cavities, heart disease, and chronic inflammation?WORK THROUGH EMAIL STRESS

Stanley meets with a wellness coach. He describes his work stressors and longing for another line of work. During the meeting his email pings. His phone rings. Facebook messenger dings. Unable to resist interruptions, Stanley checks his phone in spite of showcasing his out-of-control habits to a health professional.

Stanley’s coach assigns homework. Coach ignores Stanley’s confession of a friend’s hurtful comment and his recent weight gain. What Stanley hears from Coach ignites even more stress: Stanley, you are hooked on email. You need to figure out why. In disbelief that email checking could be problematic, Stanley nonetheless decides to dig deeper.

In the next session, Stanley admits he is powerless to stop viewing and answering emails. He admits that he wakes up and the first thing he checks is email. Before bed, Stanley checks his phone to make sure a new work task hasn’t appeared. While working on reports and figures, Stanley leaves his email open between projects. The thought is that time away from his inbox translates into spiraling unanswered email pile up.

Is it conceivable his life goal has evolved into an emotional demand to reach Zero Inbox?

Once Stanley becomes aware that email jeopardizes his self-care, he is ready to take action.

“Obsessive email checking means you jump ship from what’s at hand. Multi-tasking zaps productivity and harms the brain. Serious distraction and efficiency loss results from an obsession with non-stop email check-ins.” -Forbes.com

Stanley’s 4-step plan:

  1. Start and end the day with an intentional ritual vs. non-thinking habit. Stanley returns to his 30-minute morning workout: running outside or lifting weights. This pumps up his endorphins and generates good vibes. At bedtime, he intentionally leaves his phone downstairs. Before sleep, he closes his eyes and taps into his imagination. What does his next job look like? Where does he see himself next year?
  2. Turn off incoming mail buzzes or verbal cues. It is important to prevent the tempting distraction of automatic notifications of new messages. Stanley sees that these external signals control his behavior. He wants to make better choices. He intends to take charge of his life and his email.
  3. Shut down distractions and focuses on tasks at hand. Checking email reflexively and automatically compromises focus, productivity, and enjoyment of other work activities. Email is a productive tool. It should not be allowed to become a break excuse. Productivity trumps obsession. Happiness trumps feeling stressed-out. Freedom trumps being triggered. Today Stanley responds to email without subconsciously seeing it as a reward or form of relaxation. He responds to messages a few times a day instead of compulsively every five minutes.
  4. Imagine a day with an email system vs. allowing himself to be triggered. By scheduling and organizing email replies, Stanley sees the world doesn’t end when he doesn’t live by email alerts. His stress levels go down because he values wellness over distraction. Refuses to be held hostage by impulse. Honors his commitments and finds a healthy flow between work and leisure.

FINDING TRUST IN STRANGE TIMES

“Trust is not an obsession, it’s an extension of love. When we truly love someone, we give them our heart to hold in their hands. And when that love is returned, that very trust is balm to our souls.

— Julie Lessman

Trust is bigger than fear.

The concept of trust in modern times represents a primary component of healthy connections among people, nature, and animals. A trusting relationship offers a safe and loving space for people to express themselves to each other. Trust encourages us to show up for ourselves and each other with respect and authenticity.

Trust builds an energy of dependability and availability. Without trust, the ground beneath feels unpredictable. The COVID-19 pandemic launches the planet into uncharted and unfamiliar territory. In these wobbly times, we must look to our hearts, and call upon the resources of humanity and its global leaders to provide direction, clarity, and hope.

What happens when an event so foreign and unexpected shakes our earth at its seams? We become desperate and confused. We turn to anyone or anything that appears to make promises and offers answers. For too many of us, it appears saner to trust the noise than rely on silence for guidance.

“You must trust and believe in people or life becomes impossible.” – Anton Chekov

The wounds of forgetfulness are painful.

We forget what we are made of. We forget we can move through this pandemic and every other calamity which has touched Earth since the beginning of time. We forget to trust ourselves and locate our inner compass.

So far there is not a single person who has had a definitive and successful response to mass treatment of COVID-19. We are, however, learning something important in this shared experience. Stories that illustrate acts of courage show us a way back to light. These stories and times of great patience show us we are greater than the pandemic. Shared stories and times of prayer bring us closer to our shared divinity.

Why are we here?

We are alive during this time for a reason. It is evidenced in the way we speak, behave and think. While some have approached this experience with compassion, kindness and love, others elect to use this pandemic platform to gain power, judge others and affirm the hopelessness of the state we seem to be in.

Learning to trust in these uncertain times is essential. Individual egos long for release and to be allowed to run wild along with our minds and hearts. Truth and trust easily become entangled with doubt, suspicion and fear.

We are built with elements of trust not separation.

An open mind trusts that the divine is present even when we perceive abandonment, rejection and atonement for our wrongs. Might the pandemic serves as an opportunity for humanity to move forward, dismiss separation and return to Peace, Love and Joy? We arrive on Planet Earth with all of the equipment necessary to exist here, including spiritual wisdom. If we can create chaos and suffering we can also create harmony and ease.

An open heart trusts that love ends greed, selfishness and arrogance. What if the pandemic serves as an opportunity to unify heart resources with Peace, Love and Joy? The heart invites us to love our way into healing while extinguishing illusions. This leap of faith requires us to move beyond rational thinking and allow the heart’s immeasurable gifts: forgiveness, caring and bravery to lead the way.

We are called to trust.

A trustworthy mind and heart never tire in their quest for awakening the world and bringing it to a place of higher awareness. Let us use our precious minds and hearts to reduce heartache and contribute to our shared appreciation of life and humanity.

GIVING THE HEART AND MIND A MISSION

What’s the point of having a dream?

Sylvia spends a lot of time daydreaming about life after the year 2020.

“There’s no point in thinking about 2020 anymore,” she says to her friend, I can’t think of a single experience that has positively contributed to my life.”

Come to think of it, when Sylvia looks back to years 2019- 2018- 2017…she recalls highlights which make her heart feel fulfilled and lighter.

She digs even deeper into her heart and asks these questions:

(NOTE: Answers in this moment seem mostly unclear.)

Who or what gives me the strength to move forward each day, each year?

My mom, dog and friends

Is my life action-oriented or am I passing time without a clear direction?

I don’t have clear direction. Is that why my outlook is bleak?

How do I practice my core values? Share my spiritual gifts? Express my passion?

I want to make a difference in the world.

What impact do I make in the lives I touch?

It feels like I’m the one who calls first, makes plans and reaches out to share news. Although I don’t like one-sided relationships, I don’t know how to change these dynamics without breaking up with these people.

Does any part of my life or my relationships inspire a consistent practice of what I stand for?

Not really. I spend a lot of time complaining about the world mess and blaming leaders who appear not to care or do anything significant to clean things up.

Life can be a jumbled-up puzzle without a personal mission statement. Do you have one?

The best image to summarize Sylvia’s life?

“I am a 5000-piece puzzle. Once opened, the box’s contents are dumped onto a table. So many loose pieces are waiting to come together. When the puzzle is assembled, there is one piece missing in the center. I search all over for it with no luck.

What do I need to do to find the center and complete the puzzle?”

Right around the time Sylvia is exploring her “life puzzle”, an email pops up in her inbox with an intriguing headline. Is it time to clear out your mental warehouse? Learn how to live with mission instead of distraction today! Curious, Sylvia clicks the article link which says:

What are the characteristics of a Heart-Driven mission statement?

Sparks Inspiration.

When the heart aligns with the imagination, the light of creativity turns on and illuminates a path forward. Words, images, symbols and impressions seemingly emerge out of nowhere to provide words and context to what we stand for.

Provides a Compass.

With a tangible idea planted in the heart, it can lead to clarity and confidence regardless of what appears to be tragic or unexpected. A mission statement allows the heart to recognize life’s spiritual dimensions, and resist the temptation to allow fear to swallow us.

Why am I here on Planet Earth? To improve something? Ignite others? Build connection?

The heart’s true purpose is to love and be loved. It is up to every person to cultivate and sustain an open heart. We must avoid falling prey to ego which seeks to veer us away from love.

When the heart resonates with a mission it facilitates an open dialogue with our values, spiritual gifts and passions. Lifelong learning opportunities abound as one seizes moments to serve, share and support others. The ego cannot dominate the heart when these elements are actively practiced and expressed.

Stands the test of time and exposure.

The impact of a well-practiced mission statement cannot be overstated. Its selfless contributions advance and expand the heart of humankind. A clear and strong heart demonstrates oneness, authenticity, harmony, understanding and empathy to arise in the darkest moments.WHAT’S YOUR MISSION?

“Go forward in life with a twinkle in your eye and a smile on your face, but with great purpose in heart.

— Gordon B. Hinckley

Might a mission statement be the missing puzzle piece in the center of Sylvia’s life?

After reading the article, the answer reveals a clear yes. Sylvia recognizes the utility of putting together a personal mission statement and leading with the heart and imagination

Sylvia readies herself to write her mission statement.

Close eyes. Sit down. Imagine. Breathe.

Keep a journal and pen next to you. Pretend you find a treasure chest full of your values, spiritual gifts and passions. As you hold up each jewel you see words, images, symbols and impressions. Record your findings.

Move. Listen.

Go to a yoga class and visualize the word MISSION at the top of the mat. Breathe in and Breathe out. As you move in and out of the poses allow your body, heart and mind to ponder what the word means to you. Record your findings.

Seek. Find. Share.

Spend time with a trusted friend or private group to talk about personal mission statements. Exchange ideas and celebrate the birth of a mission statement.

Awaken. Practice.

A mission statement can awaken the whole self and light up others. To keep it alive go out into the world and give it energy. By living with a mission the heart evolves its understanding of inspiration, clarity, purpose and possibilities and widens its reach to move and touch every other living heart.

Join Rita Abdallah, RYT-500 and Caylan Fazio, RYT-200 September 20th for a lively conversation about the basics of creating a personal mission statement that includes guided meditation, yoga and more.