Enjoy the Fruits of Your Labor

Workers people group.

I’m not sure whose idea it was to declare Labor Day a national holiday, I just know I am forever grateful the idea was implemented. According to Wikipedia, some say it was Peter McGuire and others say Matthew Maguire. To me, they both sound like Midlife MacGyver. Go figure.

A well-timed holiday, like Labor Day after the first few weeks of the school year, makes me appreciate all the labor that leads up to it.

Last night, around the time I subconsciously start to stress about another work week, I relaxed into the realization that I have another day to go places and do things – even if it’s just to my deck to watch my puppy chase a hummingbird moth.

All work and no play makes me an edgy educator. I’m all for putting the petal to the metal when the project, performance, or people demand it. But I’m also a stickler for self-care and putting your own oxygen mask on first so you can assist those you set out to serve. You can’t do that if you can’t breathe.

Sometimes all you need to catch your breath is a little time off.

Other times you need full on engagement and involvement in something deeply meaningful.

The best way I know how to explain this is to share this except from David Whyte’s  Crossing the Unknown Sea. David is talking with his friend, monk, and mentor, Brother David.

“Tell me about exhaustion,” I said. He looked at me with an acute, searching, compassionate ferocity for the briefest of moments, as if trying to sum up the entirety of the situation and without missing a beat, as if he had been waiting all along, to say a life-changing thing to me. He said, in the form both of a question and an assertion: “You know that the antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest?”

“The antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest,” I repeated woodenly, as if I might exhaust myself completely before I reached the end of the sentence. “What is it, then?”

“The antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness.”

He looked at me for a wholehearted moment, as if I should fill in the blanks. But I was a blank to be filled at that moment, and though I knew something pivotal had been said, I had not the wherewithal to say anything in reply. So he carried on:

“You are so tired through and through because a good half of what you do here in this organization has nothing to do with your true powers, or the place you have reached in your life. You are only half here, and half here will kill you after a while. You need something to which you can give your full powers. You know what that is; I don’t have to tell you.”

Six years ago I spent seven glorious days in the Lake District with David Whyte and an amazing group of individuals who had traveled from various continents to spend their mornings in quiet reflection with the great poet and their afternoons in a moving meditation, soaking in both the beauty of the place and the sacredness of the spoken word.

Having this extraordinary experience with an incredible group of people in a gorgeous location was possible because I had spent years preparing myself for precisely this kind of opportunity. Even if I didn’t know that’s what I was doing at the time.

No time, no energy, no money, no relationship, or no experience is ever wasted if it prepares you for your next adventure.

The next adventure for me is diving into a new project that will help me create experience products as opposed to information products and deliver them in a very real and rewarding way. You’ll be experiencing more of this in the next 8 weeks.

You can allow yourself to burn out or you can ignite the light that can only be lit from within.

Do whatever it takes to stoke that fire. Read some books. Watch some videos. Attend a workshop. Go to the mountaintop. Head to the beach. Work out. Take a nap. Nourish yourself with food, family, or friends.

What you may discover is this:  the fruit of your labor is often the labor itself. And doing the work – the work that only you can do – is indeed worth celebrating.

I’d love for you to share the work you are celebrating in the comments below.

 

 

 

Get A Quote

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It’s Day 25 of the Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge. Today’s challenge is to find a quote, a poem, or a saying that inspires you and commit it to memory.

It can be something short like, “Fleas. Adam had em.” Or something long like the Gettysburg Address or the The Man in the Arena quote by Theodore Roosevelt that has served as the foundation for Brené Brown’s work on vulnerability and leadership.

You may already have a quote that you know by heart that has served as a beacon of light during dark times. Or you may know some famous words that have gotten you to the finish line or helped you complete your degree. Undoubtedly these encouraging words have inspired you to do what you needed to do, when you needed to do it.

Like an anthem or a playlist (see Day 4), quotes and poems transport us to a place of possibility. A place where we can do, be, or have all that we’ve been striving for.

I love to  find a quote or a poem, type it up in the font that captures its essence – or find it on Pinterest– and print it out, and then put it in a place where I’ll come across it when I least expect it.

For example, I have Zen pictures and quotes scattered about my desk drawer, my sock drawer, my glove compartment, my laptop bag, my pencil case, my wallet, and my luggage. I purposefully forget where I put them so when I do come across them, I’m delighted to discover a moment of Zen.

Today I came home to find a package on my step that was held together by packing tape that declared, “You are adored.”  It really didn’t matter what was in it after that. Just seeing that message on the outside made me feel adored.

Inside I found a few magnets to adorn my refrigerator. They quickly became the catalyst for today’s post. (Because I can’t write about my new puppy every day.)

Because you are getting a lot of stuff done 1×31 this month, I’ll leave you with this quote from Mike Dooley.

“The one thing all famous authors, world class athletes, business tycoons, singers, actors, and celebrated achievers in any field have in common is that they all began their journeys when they were none of these things.”

Take 5-15 minutes today to look up a quote or poem and commit it to memory.  Like knowing at least one clean joke, knowing this can make your world a brighter place.

Share your favorites in the comments below.

Don’t know any great poets?  May I suggest David Whyte, Heidi Rose Robbins, Mary Oliver, Hafiz, Rumi, Derek Walcott, or Pablo Naruda?  Or you could read one of Roger Housden’s Ten Poems series of books that introduce you to various poets.

 

 

 

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How Does Your Garden Grow?

 

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It’s Day 17 of Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge and today’s challenge is to plant the seeds of an idea, a project, a goal, or a grand adventure and watch them grow.

No one was more shocked than me (okay, maybe my parents when they came to visit yesterday) to find these zucchinis and cucumbers growing like crazy in the makeshift garden Bob and I rigged up a month ago.

Growing up on a farm,the rhythm of planting and harvesting has been a constant throughout my life. It should come as no surprise that what we planted and dutifully cared for has come to fruition.

What is surprising is how much joy these veggies give me simply because they exist. Their transformation from a handful of seeds stuck in the mud to these enormous, edible specimens is nothing short of miraculous.

Too often I’m detached from all the hands that make it possible for the food I eat to end up on my table. I love frequenting farmers’ markets but often opt for the ease of the big box store that sells the same stuff regardless of the season.

During the eight months of my training to become a certified eating psychology coach, I thought more about food than I had at any previous point in my life. I noticed how it is grown, manufactured to last longer, distributed, stripped of its nutrients,  and “enhanced” to be more appealing. I paid attention to how much food we consume, waste, destroy, and produce. I became acutely aware of how we use food not only to feed and nourish ourselves but also punish and condemn ourselves,  hide our feelings, or protect ourselves from relentless stress.

The fact that I am growing greens on my own makes me confident that I can do just about anything I put on my Get Stuff Done 1×31 listif I give it some respect and attention.

What about you? What seeds have you planted either consciously or unconsciously over the past few weeks or months?  What signs of success are showing up in your world?

If nothing comes to mind, use your 5-15 minutes for today’s task to think about what you’d like to grow in your garden. And by garden, what I really mean is your field of dreams.

(I realize I can get away with the Field of Dreams reference because I live in Iowa, but I really do want you to grow your dreams.  Or at least something you feel is as fabulous as I feel the zucchinis, cucumbers, and soon-to-be-ready tomatoes and peppers are.)

What have you grown from a spark into something spectacular? I would love to hear what you are growing or see pictures of your bounty. Share your favorite gardening hacks in the comments below or email me at penny@wellpower.com.

 

Wiggle Room

smiley faces on a pair of feet on all ten toes (VERY SHALLOW DOF

It’s Day 6 of our Get Stuff Done 1×31 Challenge.

Today’s challenge might be the most difficult one yet for you diligent doers. Today’s task is to relax the reigns a bit and give yourself some wiggle room.

What?” you ask. “We’re just getting started and you’re already going soft on me?”

No. I’m just reminding you that we’re all human, stuff happens, and sometimes we have to open ourselves up to the possibility that we might not always have control over what gets done when. I call this moving at the pace of grace.

For example, while my brain had a list of what I would get done today, my body had an entirely different idea.

You see, last night I made the mistake of eating something that didn’t agree with me. At all. I tried walking it off and then sleeping it off, but somewhere around 1:49, 2:37, 4:18, or 5:55, I knew this was not an ignore it and it will go away situation.

Still I attempted to override my belly’s protests and go to work anyway.  A few hours later I found myself back home in bed.

Faced with the reality that I would not get nearly enough stuff done at work or at home, I decided to look at it from a different perspective.

I work at being as healthy as possible. I seldom think about how having an illness or a chronic health issue might hinder my ability to get stuff done, not to mention affect my attitude about having to do it in the first place.

But today, I got to feel what it’s like to try to bulldoze my way through some very specific physical and emotional feedback. It wasn’t one bit fun.

Whatever was going on in my digestive track wasn’t responding to more demands. It did, however, respond most favorably to rest and relaxation.

I am a certified eating psychology coach.  I encourage people every day to listen to and honor their body’s wisdom.

Practicing what I preach was today’s biggest challenge. I might have totally overlooked it if not for today’s forced detour.

What about you? Where might you relax the reigns on your expectations of yourself or other people? What unexpected situation brought about an insight or experience you may not have gained without it? How can you be kinder and more responsive to the feedback your body has for you?

Share if you dare in the comments below.

 

 

 

Take A Hike, Valentine

Penny's iphone 2016 824

Asking my Valentine to take a hike was the best thing I could have done this Valentine’s Day. Now, before you think this is the reason I’ve been single all of my life, let me explain.

Over the years, I’ve found that taking a hike with someone you love is a natural way to bond with them. Getting outside, moving your body, and connecting with the earth has a way of grounding a relationship and opening up conversations to new perspectives, insights, and influences that may not be present in familiar, indoor environments.

A few weeks ago I realized the stress that had been accumulating since December definitely needed to be diffused. I have a couple of presentations coming up at the end of the month that require me to be fully present and aligned with my message. Stressing about it only makes me less available to “aha” moments.

Knowing the state I can work myself into prior to public speaking, I decided the best thing I could do was to head to my power place and relax into the upcoming challenge.

For me this place is the Southwest. The solidarity of the mountains and the solar power of a high desert sun recharge my batteries like nothing else. Rekindling my love affair with the landscape and the architecture does wonders for my spirit.

Listening to the urgency of my insistent soul, I set my sights on St. George, Utah. Then I told my Valentine to take a hike – with me, of course!

Maybe it was all that male bonding he’s been up to lately over activities I want no part of that made him eagerly agree to accompany me to the desert. Or maybe we both need to escape Iowa winters in February. Whatever the case, an amazing thing happened on the way to Utah.

First, I lost my iPad. Or so I thought. This led to a meltdown that left me in tears from Cedar Rapids to Denver. Luckily I still had my iPod with me and could console myself with Snatum Kaur, whose music I can only describe as transcendent.  I needed something to lift me as far from my funk as the plane was from the ground. Snatum is a Sikh which means I don’t always understand what she is singing about. But she sings like an angel and her voice was the antidote to my angst.

I imagined her words translated to some variation of the following: “Let it go. Not just the iPad but the stress and all the accumulated hurts and slights and disappointments. Let go of  your expectations that it should have been any different or that people should behave differently than they do. Let go of the striving and relentless drive to prove yourself.” Because her voice radiated love and understanding, it produced ongoing waterworks.

This was followed by a reminder from Michael Bublé that I needed to say something other than, “Take a hike!” to my Valentine. As Michael and Naturally 7 belted out “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?” I took the ear pod from my left ear and stuck it in Bob’s right ear.

Fearing that the meltdown might have had something to do with him, he visibly relaxed when he realized the crying jag had come to a conclusion. Just as we had left the cold and snow in Iowa, I had checked my stress and presumably my iPad at the gate.

As we made our connection in Denver to St. George, the laughter and lightness returned along with the excitement that we were headed someplace spectacular. We arrived to sunny skies and warm temperatures and a van waiting to take us to our dream destination. Admittedly, my dream destination – Red Mountain Resort.

Greeted by a gracious staff, incredible views, and the most delicious and nutritious foods that we won’t have to prepare ourselves, I’m pretty sure we landed in heaven.

I love labyrinths and discovered one onsite within the first hour. As I circled around and back I thought of how few trips around the sun we get to make. Life is really too short to get so worked up about stuff I have no control over. Sometimes I simply need a little distance from it.

This morning we took a remarkable hike into the Snow Canyon State Park and explored the red sand dunes and Snow Canyon trail. I had a record 14572 steps before noon. We got back just in time for a delicious meal and afternoon guided meditation.

This, of course, led to an afternoon nap for Bob while I wrote. This was followed by stretch class, an exquisite dinner, and a gathering of new friends at the hot tub.

So now, my funny valentines, I must leave you.  As naturalist John Muir said, “The mountains are calling and I must go.”  Zion National Park awaits.

I will, however, leave you with this Valentine suggestion, which I say with love. Please…. if you know what’s good for you… take a hike!

 

 

Back to the Future

 

Time and space have always presented a particular challenge for me. In theory I know I’ve made several trips around the sun, but depending upon the day or the circumstance, I can feel anywhere from age 9  to 90.

When I’m feeling older and wiser, I want to travel back in time to tell my younger self to stay curious and to allow the answers come in their own time.  I want to reassure her that she will find what she’s looking for in the most unlikely places and what is meant for her will not elude her.

Lately, however, my younger self wants to tell my mature self a few things. Specifically, my past self who spent the majority of her time teaching fitness classes in gyms, studios, and corporate fitness facilities wants to remind my present self how to be at home in my body.

A couple of years ago, I decided that in order to do my best work, I had to be my best self. This meant getting myself in shape – physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, spiritually, you name it. I was determined to get my groove back and set out to do just that.

Because I had lost my groove gradually through a series of habitual, unconscious choices over the course of a decade or two, I had to get it back through a series of intentional, deliberate actions on a daily basis.

I spent half of 2014 and all of 2015 educating myself about nutrition and how to properly nourish myself and others.  I became a certified eating psychology coach and guided a few friends through a purification process that left us all feeling fabulous.

But feelings are fleeting.  Taking it to the next level in 2016 for me is about embodying.  It’s about getting out of my head and fully inhabiting and listening to my body.

A brief glance at a photo of me in legwarmers and tights back in the day made a new approach to getting physical necessary.

I found my motivation in Erin Stutland’s  Shrink Sessions.  She has combined the words of wisdom it has taken me a lifetime to master with physical actions and movements that ground these concepts in muscle memory.

Her workouts, Soul Strolls, and meditations are incredibly empowering.  One day it occurred to me that Erin is who I wanted to be when I grew up. Or at least who I wanted to be when I was her age.

As I reflected on my early fitness career, I realized I had been very much like her.

In a surreal Back to the Future moment, I marveled at the perfection of finding this soul sister across time and space and allowing her to train me (without even knowing I exist) in the present for the future that awaits.

Listening to Erin’s mantras on my iPod as my dog and I stroll along the snow covered trail, I think about the technology and infinite intelligence that connects us and delivers perfect messages at precise moments to the people who are poised to act on them.

The kicker is we may never know the positive impact we have on each other. That’s why it’s both courageous and imperative to put our work out in the world for its own sake.

We live in incredible times and the abundance of information, education, and inspiration at our fingertips is staggering.  There are experts ready, willing, and able to guide us through any transformation we care to experience.

The amazing thing is when we look outside ourselves for help, we often get to see own brilliance mirrored back to us in others whose future or past resembles our own.  It’s easy to project greatness and success onto someone else, declaring we would never have the discipline, the talent, the chutzpah, or the support to do what they have done.  But we can’t recognize something in others we don’t also have in ourselves.

This year don’t hesitate to call on your past self, your future self, or your alter ego to help you evolve into your best self.  Then stay tuned as to who shows up to collaborate with you.

What words of wisdom might you have for your time traveling self?  Share if you dare in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

 

Get Your Gobble On

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It’s here! My favorite holiday of the year.

A day set aside to feast with family and friends and give thanks for all the good gathered over the course of a year.

Since this year Bob and I decided to host this production at our place, I needed a strategy for getting my gobble on with grace and gratitude.  Keep Calm and Gobble On seems to be the best strategy so far.

Thanksgiving is the kind of food-centric holiday that could keep a Certified Eating Psychology Coach in business all year.  With every imaginable issue surrounding food and nourishment having the potential to rear its ugly head at the most inopportune time, it’s good to have a plan.

Instead of dispensing advise on counting calories or carbs or suggesting you exercise til the turkeys come home like so many well-intentioned articles do at this time of year, I’m going to politely ask you to ignore those messages (since most of them lead to guilt and shame) and pay special attention to this one (since it might lead to an epiphany).

As difficult as it may be, do not numb out, check out, or let food or drink take you out of your discomfort in the moment. Stay present.  Be mindful.  Amazing things occur when you are aware enough to notice them.

Granted, if you are surrounded by your closest kin, you may have moments where you want to drink yourself silly or stuff your emotions like the bird you may be eating.  Or you may be so tense or hyper you rush through your meal without digesting anything but the non-stop stimuli coming at you from every media outlet available.

I get it.  There is a lot going on.  Most of it out of your control, I might add.  So please, stay calm.  Relax into the wonder of it all. Or if that’s not possible, wonder how to relax into it all. Stressing out gives you indigestion at best,  gas at worse.  And then you’ve got a whole new family legacy to live down.

What would it be like to simply trust your body and allow your belly to inform your brain what it needs to feel truly nourished?  What if you could just breathe into the meal, take your time savoring the food and the conversation, and ease into any emotionally volatile territory without full armor?  What if you could acknowledge the time away from work or your daily routine, allow yourself to be interested in the people you are related to, and celebrate the sacredness of the tradition itself?

This day is different from all other Thursdays.

Not just because we are encouraged to eat more and shop more than at any other time of year.  But because this is something we do in this country that unites us and reminds us we came from a collaborative crew.

The logistics and effort involved for so many people to get where they are going and have something to eat when they arrive is mind-blowing. Travelers, grocers, producers, retailers, advertisers, chefs, assistants, truck drivers, hospitality folks, entertainers, waitstaff, housekeepers, neighbors, pet-sitters, the list goes on and on.

It takes a village to get our collective gobble on. Whether that be a small one, a virtual one, or a global one, it’s all so impressive. For that village, and my tribe in particular (if you’re reading this, that means you!), I am most grateful.

I’d love to hear how you are getting your gobble on in the comments below.

 

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