5 Things to Know to Tap into the Transformative Power of Meditation

5 Things to Know to Tap into the Transformative Power of Meditation

I used to hate meditating and now I try not to go a day without meditating . Meditation helped me to move from a place where my energy was often anxious and frantic to a place where I am mostly calm and centered and able to shift out of anxiety when it arises. In this post, I will share how meditation has helped to transform my life and five things to know about meditation if you are just starting out.  

When I was first learning to meditate I did not like it at all. I am the type of person who is almost always moving, talking, or doing something and the idea of sitting still and doing nothing was not appealing at all. Since I didn’t see how meditation was helpful, I pushed back against meditating, telling my instructor that I’d rather do yoga or something that involved movement. Thankfully, I was learning to meditate as part of my clinical training so I had to stick with it. Over the three months of this training, I began to appreciate and settle in to the stillness of meditating. I was able to watch my racing thoughts and let them go without attaching to them. I was able to breathe deeply. I was able to calm and center myself.

Now, I try to make sure to meditate every morning because I know it helps to prepare me mentally and physically for the day ahead. It is in meditation and stillness where I connect to myself and what is most important to me. Most of my days are busy and outward facing as I am working with clients and managing administrative tasks. In contrast, meditation is the time when I go inward and center myself for the day ahead. It is when I exercise my agency for what I want my day to look like. It helps me to engage in my day with intention instead of from a place of reactivity. 

I definitely still have challenging days and do get frustrated and reactive at times but I know from experience that meditating in the morning helps me to face the challenges of life in a much more calm and centered way than I would be able to without it. This is the reason that I recommend meditation to almost all of my clients and I’m sharing this post because I want to encourage you to incorporate meditation into your life if you haven’t already. 

If you are apprehensive about meditating like I was in the beginning or have tried it before and didn’t like it, I encourage you to do an experiment: commit to meditating for 5-10 minutes 3x week for 2 weeks and just notice what it is like for you. How do you feel during meditation? How do you feel afterwards? Do you notice any differences in levels of frustration or anxiety on the days that you meditate? 

There are a lot of misconceptions about meditating that keep people from trying it, which is why I wanted to share 5 things to help you tap into the transformative power of meditation if you are you’re just starting out with meditation or if you are feeling stuck or frustrated with the process.

One: There is no such thing as being “bad” at meditation. Often people meditate once or twice and then stop because they think they are bad at meditating since their mind wanders while they meditate. I have news for you: I’ve been meditating for around 9 years and my mind still wanders when I meditate. The aim of meditation is not to stop your thinking but to practice noticing your thinking and then bring your attention back to the point of focus for the meditation. So let your mind wander all it wants when you meditate and see if you can notice and let go of your thoughts during your practice.

Two: The core of meditation is being present. So often we are caught up ruminating or reminiscing about the past or fantasizing or worrying about the future and through meditation we are guiding ourselves to be in this moment now. When we focus on the present moment we often find that life is more bearable. Being in the present moment is one of the most transformative aspects of meditation because it is in the present when we feel most calm and centered, it is in the present when our creativity can emerge, and it is in the present when we can connect to the full vibrancy of life.

Three: It can be helpful to use a guided meditation when you’re just starting out. When you are just starting sitting in silence can be challenging without any guidance. Using guided meditations can help remind you to bring your attention back to your breath or the present moment. Also, there are many different types of meditation and trying out guided meditations can help you find a stile that resonates most with you . There are a number of great meditation apps and my personal favorite is Insight Timer and I have also heard great things about Liberate, Calm, and Headspace

Four: Meditation is not intended to immediately make you feel better and calmer. Sometimes it does and that’s always great and I encourage you not to think of it as a quick fix but as an ongoing practice that will bring more more calm and peace over time. It is important to know that meditation will not help you to feel better immediately because if you use it that way, you are more likely to give up on it if it doesn’t take away all of your stress and anxiety in the moment. However, if you make an ongoing commitment to meditating regularly, you will see the benefits over time.

Five: If you already have a religious or spiritual practice, such as praying, reading scripture devotionals or spiritual texts, or listening to religious or spiritual teachings, I encourage you to connect your meditation to these practices. Taking time for stillness before or after you engage in your established practice may deepen the resonance you feel with the teachings you listen to and readings that you do. I encourage you to see what it is like to meditate 5 minutes before or after engaging in these practices. 

I hope this post has inspired you to start meditating or to return to meditation if you have not done it for a while. Meditation has become a core centering practice in my life and I hope you will experience similar benefits. At its core, meditation is about being in the present moment, not thinking about the past or worrying about the future but being present with your breath and with yourself in this moment. Meditation helps us to slow down to connect to what is most important and to allow this to guide and center us as we go about our lives.

How do you practice gratitude in the midst of disappointment?

How do you practice gratitude in the midst of disappointment?

You may be wondering if it is possible to practice gratitude in the midst of disappointment. You may feel torn between feelings of sadness and loneliness and the belief that you should be happy and grateful in your life right now. I want to encourage you to allow yourself to feel both your disappointment and your gratitude and in this post I share practices to help you do just that.

If you are experiencing disappointment as we enter the holiday season and we close out 2020, you are not alone. So much has been disappointing this year; you may have lost a loved one and been unable to grieve them like you wanted because of the pandemic, you may have lost a job that you really enjoyed and counted on for financial stability, you may have lost access to physical touch which helps you to feel calm and safe, you may have had to cancel trips or other plans that you were looking forward to. Whatever you have lost this year, I encourage you to give yourself space to grieve those losses. 

So often, we push ourselves to get over our pain by telling ourselves that someone else has it worse. While I think it is helpful to have perspective, we don’t want to invalidate our feelings by comparing them to what other people are going through. If we were only able to feel upset when no one else had something worse happen to them, we would never be able to feel hurt. When we judge ourselves for feeling the way we feel, we end up suppressing our feelings and they usually come back at a later time and in an unhealthy way. 

Feel your feelings

So what should you do instead? I suggest you start by allowing yourself to feel your hurt, pain, and disappointment. Allowing yourself to feel your emotions is not ruminating about what caused the disappointment but instead involves paying attention to the physical sensations associated with the emotion and allowing the feelings to be there without fighting them or pushing them away. As you pay attention to the physical sensations, see if you can offer yourself some comfort and love for the discomfort and pain you are experiencing. You may find that accepting your emotions actually helps them to pass more quickly than resisting them. Also, it is helpful to remember that our feelings show us that we are human and care about things and the difficult emotions we experience reflect the the gap between what we hoped would happen and what actually happened.

Acknowledge what you are grateful for

Once you have allowed yourself to feel your feelings, the next step is to intentionally look for things that you are grateful for in your life. There is ample evidence on the power of gratitude; it helps us to feel happier, it can soothe anxiety, and it can help to lift a depressed mood. When we practice gratitude, we shift our attention from what is wrong to what is going well. Our minds are naturally drawn to negative things and gratitude helps us to counteract this tendency.

Identifying what you are grateful for is not intended to invalidate your feelings, the aim is to hold the disappointment and the gratitude together. For me, this looks like allowing myself to feel disappointed and frustrated about having had to postpone my wedding and cancel trips this year while also acknowledging that I am grateful to have a partner who I know I want to marry, I am grateful that my parents and family members are healthy and safe, and that I’m excited about some things that I’m working on professionally. I hold all of these things together because they are all true for me and they do not invalidate or override each other. 

What would it look like for you to acknowledge your disappointments and your appreciations? What has been hard for you this year? And what are you grateful for right now? I encourage you take the time to reflect on these things and allow yourself to sit with the sadness and joy that may arise for you.

I hope this practice of holding your disappointments and gratitude together helps to bring you some peace in the midst of a turbulent year. I’d love for you to stay in touch by following me on instagram @dradiagooden and signing up to receive my free e-book on overcoming low self-worth and more messages like this from me.

Coping with Discrimination

Coping with Discrimination

Photo by Jeffery Erhunse on Unsplash

There has been a lot of focus recently on how organizations can improve related to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and how individuals can work to be anti-racist. These conversations are necessary and it strikes me that there has been very little focus on how to support Black people as we navigate racism and discrimination in our daily lives. Additionally, so often, Black people are the ones tasked with the emotional labor of leading the diversity committee or the equity efforts without additional compensation. My hope is that the increased acknowledgement of the racial trauma in this country and the need for healing is shifting this dynamic . Unfortunately, the road to increased equity and inclusion and to ensuring that spaces are welcoming and affirming for Black people is long, and it is important that we prioritize taking care of ourselves during this time. In this post I will share some common reactions people have to experiencing discrimination as well as coping strategies to take care of yourself in the face of discrimination.

What is discrimination?

Discrimination involves being treated differently based on your identity or membership in a certain group. Discrimination could look like never being considered for a promotion because you are a Black women, not receiving challenging work assignments that could further your career, or not being compensated as much as your White male colleagues for the same work. Discrimination often manifests in the form of microaggressions, which are brief interactions that communicate negative views about people from your identity group. A classic example of a microaggression is having a colleague express surprise at how articulate you were when giving a presentation. The underlying message is that because you are a Black woman they assumed you weren’t smart enough too give a good presentation. These microaggressions and discrimination take a toll. Microaggressions and discrimination often leave us questioning ourselves and wondering if we did something wrong to cause someone to treat us poorly or with disrespect. Overall, experiencing discrimination is stressful and exhausting and in response to this stress we can cope in both helpful and unhelpful ways. Below, I highlight common responses to discrimination and my recommendations for healthy coping strategies.

Common Responses to Discrimination

Internalization – Internalizing racism and discrimination involves believing negative stereotypes about your group and feeling that being Black or a member of another historically oppressed group makes you inferior. When people internalize racism and discrimination they often try to distance themselves from other members of their group (e.g., a Black person who doesn’t want to be associated with other Black people). In attempt to manage the discrimination they experience these people have adopted the belief that there is something wrong with being Black because they bought into the dominant narrative about Black people in the US. This internalization is heartbreaking because it causes people to feel unworthy because of who they are.

Representative – Another way that discrimination impacts us is that it can make us feel like we must be the representative for everyone in our group. When you are the representative, you feel the pressure to perform perfectly in order to make sure that other members of you group who come after you will have a chance and be looked upon positively. Taking on the representative role is a lot of pressure and can be emotionally exhausting. Often, when people feel like they must be the representative they don’t feel like they can truly be themselves at work or at school and that they have to hide anything about themselves that could be seen in a negative light.

Overcompensating – Most Black people have been told by a family member that they must work 2-3 times as hard as their White peers to experience any success. The idea is that you have to overcompensate in order to be given the recognition that you deserve. When people overcompensate they adopt perfectionism in an attempt to disprove stereotypes. This often leads to people overworking and experiencing burnout, which is obviously a detriment to their health. Additionally, overcompensating rarely changes people’s negative views about your identity group, it only gets you labeled as an exception.

All three of these responses to discrimination can result in emotional exhaustion and negative feelings about yourself and your work. Take a moment to reflect on whether you have responded to discrimination in any of these ways. How have these things affected the way you think and feel about yourself and how you engage in work and school? Be kind with yourself with in this reflection and remember that whatever your response has been to any discrimination you have experienced, it has come from a place of trying to protect yourself. Next, I will share five healthy coping strategies to support you in navigating discrimination.

Coping Strategies for Discrimination

Acknowledge your experience – So often as Black people we tell ourselves to push through, we ignore our feelings for the sake of being strong, and we may fear that if we stopped to really acknowledge how we feel we would be too angry or upset to keep going. However, while ignoring and suppressing your feelings may be a little helpful in the short-term, it ultimately leads to bigger problems in the long term. Unprocessed anger, pain, and sadness can manifest as physical health issues and can result in getting upset with a family member or partner at another time. This is why my first recommendation is to acknowledge your experience of discrimination. Just naming and validating your experience can be a powerful step towards releasing and healing what happened to you. Allow yourself to feel the sadness, hurt, and anger related to what you have experienced and offer yourself compassion. Acknowledgment helps you to affirm that you are not crazy and that you have experienced something that is challenging and problematic.

De-personalize discrimination and microaggressions – As I mentioned earlier when discussing internalization of stereotypes, it is easy to start to believe the negative things society and colleagues may say about you and to start questioning yourself and feeling that you are being treated poorly because there is something wrong with you are. A powerful way to challenge this is by reminding yourself that you are not experiencing racism and microaggressions because there is a problem with you being a Black woman, for example, you are experiencing these things because there is racism and sexism present in our society and institutions. When people have a problem with you being Black that is their problem, not something that you are responsible for. Taking this stance does not mean that you never accept feedback or identify areas for personal or professional growth, it means that when you experience someone treating you in a biased way because of your identity, you remind yourself that their treatment is about them and the biased society we live and not about you.

Connect with people who look like you – There is a reason that affinity groups still exist and it is because there is a powerful sense of relief that we feel when we are in a space with people who share our identities and we know that we don’t have to prove our intelligence or value. If you are experiencing discrimination, it is important to find places and spaces where you can connect to other people from your identity group. This could be at your job or school or friends and colleagues outside of the place where you work or go to school. Having a safe space to vent about your experiences and have them validated by other people can relieve stress and help you to feel less alone.

Reflect on the experience and determine whether or not to take action – Once you have acknowledged your experience, depersonalized it and connected with other people for support and validation you can determine whether or not you would like to take action to address the discrimination you experienced. Sometimes it is empowering to address discrimination and microaggressions by talking with the person who was involved or to HR but sometimes that feels like emotional labor that is not worth the energy. Unfortunately, it is common for people to respond defensively when we call them out for inappropriate behavior and it is important not to rely on the response of someone who harmed you in order to make peace with the situation.

Set boundaries and take breaks – If you are experiencing a lot of racism, discrimination, and microaggressions, I encourage you to set boundaries around the time you spend engaging with work and school in order to protect your time and energy outside of work and school. Make sure to take breaks from work to recharge and connect with things and people who are important to you. As I mentioned earlier, overcompensating by engaging in work and school can exacerbate stress and when you are experiencing discrimination it is essential to take care of yourself by taking breaks.

I wish that in 2020 we didn’t still have to talk about how to cope with discrimination and microaggressions but unfortunately racism is still alive and well and in order for BIPOCs to thrive in this environment it is essential to adopt healthy coping strategies and take care of ourselves.

Preparing for the Relationship You Want

Preparing for the Relationship You Want

I spent years having conversations with friends and my therapist and my parents about how to find a partner who was a good match. My friends and I discussed the pros and cons of online dating, dating apps, meeting someone through friends or out and about. We discussed what we wanted in our partners; the degrees we wanted them to have, the careers they were pursuing, their political and religious beliefs, and personal characteristics. We vented our frustrations about the emotional ups and downs of dating; matching with someone on a dating app, chatting for a week, getting excited about a date, only to be disappointed when meeting in person. We cried together about relationship disappointments and how we might be able to choose better next time. What strikes me now, is that through all of these conversations, rarely did we discuss how we wanted to be as partners; the question of whether or not we were ready for the type of relationships we longed for was rarely asked or addressed. When I got into my relationship with my current partner I realized that I had spent far too little time preparing for the kind of relationship I wanted and reflecting on what it would look like for me to be a good partner.

When I started dating my current partner, I was caught off guard by how honest and straightforward he was. I was pleasantly surprised that he proactively planned dates, communicated that he liked me, expressed his desire for a committed relationship, and generally did what he said he was going to do. I was so used to not getting what I wanted in relationships that I struggled to be present and just enjoy our budding relationship without looking for things that were wrong. Upon reflection, I began to understand that I had become so accustomed to working to get past partners to commit that I was not used to just relaxing into a relationship. What I have concluded after growing in this relationship for over a year is that I had not spent enough time preparing myself for the kind of relationship I really wanted. I had been overly focused on trying to find the right partner and had not spent enough time thinking about how to be the kind of partner that would enable me to have the healthy, deeply committed, and intimate relationship I was longing for.

Is my story similar to yours? Have you spent a lot of time thinking about how you can find the right partner and what you want that person to be like, while neglecting to think about how you want to be as a partner? Have you failed to consider whether you are ready for the kind of commitment and relationship you are looking for? If this feels familiar to you I hope you will find my suggestions below, about how to prepare for the relationship you want, to be helpful. One thing that I have learned over the last year and a half of my relationship is that being the kind of partner you want to be is an ongoing process. I am continuing to grow and learn about myself as a partner and to identify ways that I can be a better partner to my fiancé. The suggestions below are intended to be ongoing practices that you revisit throughout your time dating and in a relationship. Continue reading “Preparing for the Relationship You Want”

Saying Goodbye

Saying Goodbye

I recently said goodbye to a job I had for more than 4 years, a place where I did some of my initial training as a therapist and developed as a professional. As I said goodbye to colleagues who have become friends and work that I loved doing sadness, welled up in my chest. I felt the gravity of what I had experienced and done at that job along with the almost overwhelming gratitude for the love, joy, laughter, and growth that I experienced while working there. As I was saying “farewell” to my colleagues I understood why my clients so often avoid their emotions; our feelings can seem like too much to sit and be present with. I think this is part of why goodbyes can be so challenging for many of us. I am grateful that I was able to be present to these waves of emotion and to feel my feelings all the way through as a way of honoring the experience I had and the work  I did. Saying goodbyes in healthy ways allows us to appreciate the experiences and relationships we’ve had, reflect and learn from what we have gone through, and move forward unencumbered by the past.

All of us say numerous “goodbye’s” throughout our life; when we end relationships, when we move, when we change jobs, and when people we love die, we are forced to let go and acknowledge that something is over. In Stillness Speaks Ekhart Tolle says that “every ending is like a little death.” I think this is another reason that people do not like to say goodbye because it can feel like a part of you is dying; goodbyes force us to acknowledge that despite our best efforts to hold on to things, nothing lasts forever. As Black people, some of us may have a difficult relationship with saying goodbye because of the trauma we have experienced. Whether it is a loved one dying unexpectedly, someone being locked up in prison unfairly, or the legacy of separation of families during slavery, it can be difficult for Black people to say healthy goodbyes while processing the trauma we experience. Continue reading “Saying Goodbye”

A Case for Black Self-Compassion

A Case for Black Self-Compassion

As technology advances nationwide, and we view ourselves through the lens of social media and social comparison, many of us have become overly self-critical. Further, Black people have had a history of being particularly hard on ourselves as we’ve worked to survive in a racist society long before the rise of digital platforms. It may have started generations ago, when the whippings from slave masters continued in the form of whoopings from parents, who were scared that if their children did not obey orders they would receive far worse punishment–even death, at the hands of White people. This fear of what will happen if Black people don’t obey the orders of White people continues today as parents try to prepare their children to survive encounters with police. This anxiety and fear can manifest as harshness instead of as a communication of the deep love that family members have for their children. Many of us have internalized this harshness and turned it on ourselves. Further, Black people in America receive constant messages that we don’t deserve to be treated well or with compassion. The school-to-prison pipeline, the trauma-to-prison pipeline, mass incarceration, the criminalization of addiction, and blaming Black women for the plight of Black families are just some examples of the lack of compassion shown towards Black people in America.

One consequence of surviving terror is learning to be tough all of the time. The hope is that if we are tough and avoid being vulnerable, we will be able to protect ourselves from emotional pain. As we learn to be tough we cut ourselves off from intimacy with other people. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt so much when a family member was killed if we didn’t express how attached we were to them. And, we cut ourselves off from intimacy with ourselves. Maybe we could better handle abuse and mistreatment if we just suppressed our emotions so we couldn’t feel them. The reality is that the pain of loss still hurts even if we had a strained relationship with someone (and sometimes it’s more difficult to process) and suppressing emotions may help us to avoid feelings temporarily but ultimately emotions come out in ways that can cause problems for us and our relationships. Suppressing difficult emotions also limits our ability to feel and express positive emotions. Not having safe spaces to learn to honor our pain and to be vulnerable has left us without life giving self-compassion.

Whenever I talk to clients about self-compassion the first objection I hear is that if people are kind and compassionate to themselves they will never improve, they will be stagnant. We have confused criticism, internalized stereotypes, and feeling like we are not good enough with healthy striving for growth and development. Being compassionate to yourself does not mean giving yourself a pass or letting yourself off the hook for mistakes. Self-compassion actually helps us to face and take responsibility for the things that we have done wrong. It is much easier to reflect on our problematic behavior and consider how we want to move forward when we have a foundation of self-compassion. Let’s use a metaphor of two teachers; one teacher is very harsh and critical of their students. Constantly calling students out for mistakes and telling them that they’re stupid and will probably never learn. The second teacher encourages students to take their work seriously and also provides comfort when students don’t do as well as they hoped. They acknowledge that what they are asking the students to do is difficult and help students to think about how they can improve their skills and increase their knowledge. Which teacher do you think will be more effective with students? Which teacher is creating a safe learning environment for their students? Which teacher would you prefer to have? I’m guessing you’d rather have the second teacher. It is hard to learn, grow, and love when we are in an overly critical environment; even if that environment is just in our heads.

You might be protesting against this case for Black self-compassion by thinking that Black people don’t have time for compassion. We need to be fighting police brutality, mass incarceration, and infringement on voting rights among other issues facing our communities. You might assert that these issues are more pressing than learning to be compassionate with ourselves and others. I agree that these are all pressing issues and I challenge you to consider what our communities will look like if they are not infused with love and compassion. Racist institutions in the US have systematically attempted to erode love and compassion in Black communities. Thankfully these efforts have not been completely successful but it is time to intentionally rebuild Black love and compassion in our communities. Black self-compassion is radical, it is personal and political. Black self-compassion challenges the stereotypes that we are just hard and tough, that we are not fully human. Black self-compassion pushes back against any racism we may have internalized. Black self-compassion helps to break cycles of violence and trauma. Black self-compassion allows us to honor Black humanity.

The following is my conceptualization of what Black self-compassion looks like. It combines established components of self-compassion (mindfulness, self-kindness, and common humanity) and two other components that specifically address traumas and other experiences that Black people commonly experience.

Continue reading “A Case for Black Self-Compassion”

Overcoming Loneliness

Overcoming Loneliness

Blk Woman btw Pillars
Photo by Savs on Unsplash

Loneliness is painful. It often involves feeling disconnected, feeling outside of the circle, feeling forgotten. Loneliness has been a frequent companion throughout my life. I grew up as an only child and while my parents are wonderful, they established clear boundaries between their relationship and me, which I think was great for their marriage (they’ve been married for over 38 years!) but did not feel great for me as an only child. Starting at an early age, I felt somewhat on the outside in my family. This feeling continued for me at school and church. While I think I was generally well liked, I always felt like I was different and didn’t quite fit in. There were times when I actually was left out or teased (never badly) and then there were times when I was hypersensitive to the experience of being left out and looked for evidence to confirm my assumption that I was being excluded. There were also probably times when I held back in friendships and relationships fearing that I would be rejected and ended up feeling disconnected. One of the ways that I adapted to my experience of loneliness was to make myself useful. To be the friend that people call when they are going through a hard time, to be the one who bakes cookies from scratch and brings them to the gathering. I unconsciously believed that if I did enough people would include me regardless of whether or not they really wanted me to be there. While I will probably always enjoy doing things for people it’s been interesting for me to push myself to unlearn this tendency especially in the context of doing therapy where just being present can be powerful and healing.

I wish I could say that I was over this loneliness, this fear of being left out but I’m not. While I have come a long way and I’m much less sensitive than I used to be, I continue to struggle at points. Even as an adult I have struggled with being left out by my friends questioning what I have done wrong, how I could be better/different so that I could be included.

Your loneliness may look different than mine Loneliness can involve being in a crowd of people and feeling all alone or it could be spending a night at home alone scrolling through social media wishing you were out with friends. Loneliness can feel like wanting to call a friend but feeling like they won’t answer or want to talk to you. Loneliness often accompanies feelings of self-criticism and even shame as we assume that we are lonely because something is wrong with us.

Despite our increasingly connected world and ability to access other people at any time, many of us are feeling lonelier than ever before. This growing prevalence of loneliness is not something to be laughed off as a silly problem affecting millennials; it is a serious issue. Loneliness can negatively impact our health with some research studies connecting loneliness to dying earlier. We are social creatures and when we do not get the social connection we were designed for, our immune system can break down and we are more likely get sick. If you struggle with loneliness, consider the following strategies for overcoming loneliness, which I have found helpful in my own life.

Continue reading “Overcoming Loneliness”

Living Your Best Life from the Inside Out

Living Your Best Life from the Inside Out

When you think about living your best life what comes to mind? Do you imagine yourself jet-setting to fabulous locations around the world? Do you picture what you would be doing once you finally make the salary you deserve? Do you imagine yourself getting married and building a life with a doting partner? Often, when we think about living our best lives we focus on the external. For many of us, living our best life is about the way we look, where we are traveling, the parties we are going to, our relationships, the jobs we have, how much money we make, etc. While these external things can certainly help us to live our best lives, I’d like to propose that the most impactful way to approach living your best life is from the inside out.

Have you ever found that after the first few months of having a new car or kitchen appliance the excitement wears off? Have you gotten tired of the pattern of partying and recovering? Have you ever noticed that two weeks after returning from your vacation you were longing for the next one? I think if we’re honest with ourselves the positive effects of these external things that make it look like we are living our best lives wears off fairly quickly. We often overlook the fact that we need to live our best lives from the inside out in order to have the lasting joy that many of us are longing for. We may go on a vacation hoping for peace only to find that we’ve brought our harsh and critical mind along with us. We may find ourselves distracted and disengaged when we are doing things we enjoy. We may find that our obligations to other people keep us from living for ourselves. The following are my recommendations for ways to live your best life from the inside out. My hope is that these approaches to living your best life will help every day to feel better and also enhance your enjoyment of the fun, instagram-worthy activities that you engage in. Continue reading “Living Your Best Life from the Inside Out”

Gaining Peace through the Wisdom of No Arrival

Gaining Peace through the Wisdom of No Arrival

Path through trees

I have been dealing with minor but fairly uncomfortable and frustrating digestive issues since last summer. If I’m being honest I would say that I have been dealing with minor digestive issues throughout my life. My initial approach to addressing my digestive issues was to struggle against them, to figure out how to fix the problem so that I could move on with my life. I worked with an integrative health coach/nutritionist (who was very helpful), I restricted my diet (no grains, no gluten, no dairy, no alcohol), which in turn restricted my social life. I started to feel like I couldn’t fully live my life until this issue was resolved. I love cooking and trying new restaurants and felt like I wasn’t able to engage in activities that brought me joy. I was doing everything that I could to get rid of the problem (natural methods, western medicine, etc) and it just wasn’t working.

Then around early May I began to accept that my digestive system is working very hard but struggling to digest food in the way I wanted it to. I stopped thinking about my body as a problem and started appreciating it for what it was trying to do. I reflected on the fact that I have had a sensitive stomach since childhood and accepted that I will likely always have a sensitive stomach. I transitioned away from trying to find the solution to my digestive issues and began to move towards figuring out lifestyle habits and types of food that my body prefers. This is my life, this is my body, and I can struggle against it and treat it as a problem or I can continue to practice accepting it and treating it well. I moved away from seeking to arrive at a place where I would not have digestive issues and could eat whatever I want, to accepting that there will be no such arrival. Since making this shift I have felt much more at peace. I have stopped complaining as much about my symptoms or telling people about all of the foods that trigger my symptoms. I have stopped searching for a magic cure. I have accepted that sometimes I’m not going to feel great physically and I know how to take care of my body during those times. I have gotten back to focusing on living my life instead of waiting to live my life once I’ve arrived at a solution to my problems. I still have days when my digestion feels better and days when it feels worse, the biggest change is how at peace I feel with it all; this peace has come through applying the wisdom of no arrival to my life.

Continue reading “Gaining Peace through the Wisdom of No Arrival”

Cultivating Unconditional Self-Worth

Cultivating Unconditional Self-Worth

I gave a TEDx Talk at DePaul on May 1st, 2018 on the topic of cultivating unconditional self-worth. I shared my own struggles with self-worth as well as my recommendations for practices that we can all engage in to cultivate unconditional self-worth. I hope you will check the talk out and share it with people you think might benefit from the message. You can find the video here. I have also included the video below.