Setting Healthy Boundaries

If you’re anything like me, there have been times in your life when you have felt betrayed and hurt by someone you thought you could trust. You may question yourself: where did I go wrong? How can I be sure this doesn’t happen again? While it is tempting to put up walls to ensure that you don’t go through hurt, rejection or betrayal again, that’s not the answer. Closing yourself off from all experiences because of injured emotions does you more harm than good.

So what IS the answer? Setting healthy boundaries allows you to interact with others in a mutually respectful way. They protect your sense of personal identity without getting overwhelmed by the demands of others. Here are the keys to setting healthy boundaries:

  1. Define your personal boundaries. If you aren’t clear on your personal boundaries, it’s going to be hard for others to follow them. Think of your emotions as a compass to determine where boundary lines should be drawn. Emotional discomfort tells you boundaries need to be put in place.

  2. Communicate your boundaries. Once you’ve had time to reflect on your personal boundaries, you need to communicate what they are to others. Those you live and work with aren’t mind readers (but, wouldn’t it be awesome if they WERE???), and will rely on you to state your boundaries. You may start this conversation by saying, “I feel hurt when…” or “It makes me uncomfortable when…”

  3. Stick with it. You have chosen and communicated your boundaries, and now you need to stick with them. Be diligent! Be sure that you are holding others AND yourself to your boundaries. It’s okay to let them know if they have crossed the line. Your concversation might sound like this: “I feel hurt when you…. I will need some time away to work through my feelings.” Only through communication and consistency will others learn what we expect of them.

Namaste friends,

Michelle

The Write Stuff

Last week I began something I haven’t done in over 30 years: I started a diary. Yep, you read that right. A diary. You’re probably thinking: who keeps a diary any more? We are not living in the 1800s, Michelle! Well, the truth is that keeping a diary is actually beneficial for you in a plethora of ways. We’ll explore some of the many benefits right now, and do some guided writing together in the coming weeks.

So, why keep a diary?

*Literacy: When you write daily, you improve not only your writing skills but your speaking skills as well. Diary writing helps you express your feelings, thoughts and emotions in written form, which enhances your ability to express them verbally.

*Stress: Writing your feelings down changes the way your brain deals with stressful information and makes room for more positive thoughts. By not carrying around negative feelings anymore, you are releasing them and giving your body time to process and heal.

*Deeper connection to self: Keeping a diary helps you become more in tune with your thoughts, feelings, and values. It helps you set realistic goals which you hold yourself to.

*Time away from a screen: We spend so much time in front of screens. You can’t walk more than a block outside without seeing someone with some type of screen in front of their face. Research has shown that there is a limit to how much screen time is healthy. Take a break from the screen and reconnect with a pen and paper.

Until next time, friends ~ Namaste!

Michelle

Working with Transitions

Heraclitus said, “The only thing that is constant is change.” Changes in life are guaranteed. Whether it’s a new career, the beginning or end of a relationship or the loss of a loved one, transitions are part of being human…but that doesn’t make them any easier to deal with. Transitions can be overwhelming and, in some cases, debilitating. So how is one to work through transitions?

  1. In all change there is opportunity. It may be hard to see it at the time you are experiencing it, but all change brings growth. In every challenge there is a gift. About 15 years ago, I was assigned to teach 6th grade. I had never taught any grade but 1st and was petrified. I hated every minute of it, but out of that came a beautiful friendship with another teacher which I still have to this day. In addition, I learned new techniques for coping with stress and anxiety.

  2. Be present. You are here. You are safe. You are loved. No matter what changes are happening around you, those three things are givens. When we lost our dog Macca, we were devastated. Sometimes it felt as if we were drowning in grief. However, we kept being pulled back to the present by our rabbit, Vera. She needed constant care and attention. Her presence reminded us that the loss of Macca was not the end of the world: we still had a purpose, a reason to keep going.

  3. Up the ante on self-care. Yoga, meditation, working out, walks in nature: whatever you do to make yourself feel good, do it! Be gentle with yourself: transitions are challenging. Our bodies and minds get stuck in the way we think things “should” be and are resistant to change. Reconditioning ourselves to accept a new job, relationship change or loss of a loved one is hard. Spend more time than usual pampering yourself.

  4. Call on your tribe. Everyone needs a support system throughout their life, and going through transitions is the perfect time to call on yours. Surround yourself with the love and attention from those who you rely on: family, friends and/or coworkers. Paul took a week off when Macca went to the Rainbow Bridge, but after that I was on my own. I knew I would need my friends to help me: I went to the mall with one, went for a walk with another, took my sister to my acupuncture appointment. I didn’t want to be alone, and my friends and family came through in amazing ways.

If transition becomes too much for you, consider seeking professional help. Looking outside of yourself to others for support and love may be needed.

Namaste,

Michelle

The Love You Give

Happy February! For me, this month has always represented love. I’m not just talking about the love between two people who are in a relationship. When I think of love, I think of all the love that you give to yourself, others, and the planet. One of my favorite Beatles lyrics is from the song “The End”:

and in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make

This statement is profound on so many levels. With this simple sentence, The Beatles encompass the beauty of our purpose on this earth: to love and be loved. My mentor, Lynn, has more to say about love: there are two basic emotions, fear and love. Choose love. But how exactly do you “choose love?” The world makes love a very challenging option sometimes.

  1. See yourself in the other. In Hinduism, the word namaste means “I bow to the divine in you.” When you think or say namaste, you are acknowledging the divine light in the living being with whom you are communicating. That same light is inside you. This is what the phrase "see yourself in the other" means. You are the other, and the other is you.

  2. Take a breath before responding. How many times have you responded too harshly to a situation, only to regret it minutes later? When faced with a challenge, adversity, or just downright mean people, stop and breathe first. Ground yourself: visualize your energy bubble around you being pulled in to your center with each breath you take. Then you can respond.

  3. The best way to spread love is to BE love. I know this sounds cliche, but there is a mountain of truth in it. When your being is filled with love, you can’t help but spread that around. Your positive attitude and joy rubs off on others, which fills them with joy. They then pass that love on to others and, before we know it, the whole PLANET is a loving place! Repeating the mantra I am love is a beautiful way to make this a reality.

  4. Hate rots the vessel it is kept in. Just think about that for a minute. Aaaaaaaaaaand mic drop.

Namaste my lovely friends,

Michelle

SMART Goal Setting

It’s that time of year, everyone! January brings a plethora of newness; a whole year full of possibilities! Diets are begun, gym memberships renewed, and bad habits ended. Then comes February and all your hard work and planning go out the window. You become overloaded, bogged down, and unenthusiastic about the goals you set. You promise yourself that next year is the year you will lose weight/learn to sew/clean out the closet. But then along comes the following January and guess what? You’re back into the same routine: you set goals and struggle to attain them. I’m going to teach you how to make SMART goals--those which are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

So, let’s say you want to get in shape. What would a SMART goal look like?

  1. Specific: A goal of, “ I want to get in shape” is beautiful, but not specific. What does “get in shape” mean? Do you want to lose 10 pounds? Fit into a smaller dress size? Feel and eat healthier? Increase your muscle mass? Your goal must be specific for you to stick with it. It may sound like this: “I want to work out three times a week.”

  2. Measurable: How will you keep track of progress towards your goal? In this instance, keeping a calendar and indicating dates you worked out makes sense. You could also write down every day you work out. Use pen and paper or create a document on your computer. Maybe you’ll get all fancy and create bar graphs and pie charts. The point is that you must be able to measure your goal.

  3. Achievable: Your goal must be something that you can attain. What is your work schedule like? What about your social life? How can you craft your goal so it is achievable? If you have no free time now, a goal of working out three times a week is unattainable. Remember, you want to reach this goal, so keep it real--set yourself up for success.

  4. Relevant: The goal you set must be meaningful to you. Don’t aim to work out three times a week because your friends think you should. Pick something that truly speaks to you. What would improve your life? What habits do you want to stop/begin for a better, more centered you? Think about what you truly desire: if it makes you feel excited, it’s a relevant goal.

  5. Time-Bound: This is by far the most challenging. Set a date you want to achieve this goal by and stick with it! Experience has taught me that working towards a goal for three months is a good start. After that point, you can reevaluate your progress and continue or modify your goal. It may sound like this: “By March 31, 2019, I will have worked out 36 times.” Pick a date, write it down, post it everywhere that you can see: a time-bound goal is a well thought goal.

Namaste,

Michelle

Working with Grief

Grief looks and feels different for everyone. After we lost Macca and Vera, I was frustrated with the limited advice on the grieving process. So many choose to describe it as something to “get through” and “manage.” I believe your grief is something you work with and experience. What does this mean?

*Acknowledge - first step: accept that you are grieving. Do not try to fight/hide/disguise your pain; accept it for what it is: your body’s way of working with a profound loss of some type. Welcome the grief into your life like an old friend. It sounds strange, but pain comes from resistance. Accept your grief as a part of you until you heal and no longer need it.

*No timeline - Have you ever encountered someone who started a new relationship after their spouse or partner passed away? Or a person who adopted again when they just lost a beloved pet? If so, I bet the thought “it’s too soon” ran through your mind. Don’t worry: I have had the same reaction. But the truth is, there is no such thing as “too long” or “not long enough” when grieving. It may take you five months, five weeks, five years, or more. I still grieve over Macca and Vera, every day. The point is, you know what is best for you. Do not let others control your healing.

*What you feel is right - no matter what that may be. Shame, guilt, regret, sadness, relief, hopelessness. It does not matter what the emotion is: if you are feeling it, it is okay and normal. There is no “right” and “wrong” way to feel when grieving; anyone who tells you otherwise should not be someone you surround yourself with.

*Journal - I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: rage, my friends, RAGE! Getting all that emotion out onto the page helps you release your emotions and begin the healing process.

Grief is a facet of life that we will all work with at some point. If we acknowledge it, take the time we need with it and realize that whatever we’re feeling is normal, we help our bodies heal.

Namaste friends,

Michelle

Creating a Vision Board

A Vision Board is a graphic representation of your hopes and dreams. Creating one increases the likelihood of getting what you wish for. Vision Boards can be as complex or simplistic as you desire. Here’s how to get started on creating your vision:

Materials: *poster board or cardboard or anything to draw/mount your images on

*glue/tape/some type of adhesive

*magazine to cut images/words from; conversely, you may choose to draw/write all your pictures and positive words

*anything else that makes you feel amazing like bits of nature, tiny mementos, etc.

Creating:

  1. Look through magazines and choose pictures/words/phrases that speak to you. Don’t think too much about it, go with your feelings. How do you feel when you see/read it? If it sparks joy in you, it’s something you want for your Vision Board. Remember, these are things you want to draw into your life so be sure they represent your authentic self.

  2. Arrange your images and words in a way that works for you on your poster board.

  3. Place your Vision Board in a location where you can see it daily. Viewing your Vision Board on a daily basis is a concrete reminder of your goals…it’s a pleasant glimpse into your future.

Happy creating!

Namaste,

Michelle

Creating and Maintaining a Self-Care Routine

Most of us know that we should have a self-care routine. But what exactly is self-care? And how can you make a habit of sticking with it?

According to Raphailia Michael, “self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health.” These activities should be things you love to do, not ones you feel you should be doing. What do you truly love? Reading? Yoga? Meditation? Walking? The key is to pick things you love so you will stick with your routine and lead a beautifully balanced life. I personally need a mix of physical and spiritual activity, so my routine includes both:

Daily: five minutes of yoga in the morning, 30 minutes of rage journal and meditation at night, 30 minutes of reading at night

Three times a week: 30 minutes at 9round

Monthly: one hour acupuncture, two hours phone conversation with spiritual mentor

How much time are you willing to dedicate to your self-care routine? Planning and scheduling times and activities will help you stick with it. Start small: if you have never done this before, I suggest picking small blocks of time - no more than 10 minutes in the morning and evening. For example, if walking and reading are two things you adore, your self-care routine would look like this:

10 minutes walk in the morning, 10 minutes reading at night

Once you are comfortable with the time, you can increase it and/or add other activities. Remember, the goal here is to help your body recharge and relax, so keep it simple until you are ready for more. Here are just a few activities that you might consider as part of your self-care routine:

take a bath create a vision board bullet journal yoga meditate go for a walk

do a face mask look at old photos dance around your house cook watch a movie

organize something knit, crochet, cross-stitch read garden take an online class

blog get acupuncture cuddle your fur babies listen to podcasts play a board game

I am SO EXCITED to see what your self-care routine will look like. Please comment on my Facebook page or below.

Namaste,

Michelle

Creating and Maintaining Positive Workplace Relationships

Now that we have created a beautiful workplace sanctuary and filled it with crystals and essential oils, it’s time to talk about the people you work with. They may be your best friends or people you don’t exactly see eye to eye with. Whatever your case may be, there is no question: you need to get along with others at work and they need to get along with you. How can you accomplish that?

First things first: you must become mindful at work. All else will follow. Here are some great ways to be more mindful at work:

1.    Be present: If you are working on a task (like I am right now!) be fully engaged and invested in it. I know; it is SO TEMPTING to let your mind wander or pick up your phone or respond to an email. Bring your full attention to the task at hand.

2.    Practice gratitude: Any time you feel your mind wandering off into negativity land, make a quick list (mental or actual) of three things you are grateful for. It’s an easy way to remind yourself of all you are blessed with.

3.    Pause before starting a new activity: Take just a few seconds to take a deep breath before beginning a new activity or moving from one space to another. Breathing brings your attention to the present and aligns your focus.

When you have interactions with others, your mindful self will shine through. Now, what about interacting with coworkers, clients, and administration?

1.    Accept all; have no attachments: This one is PARTICULARLY challenging for me. I become very attached to things I believe in. So, when I am faced with adversity because others don’t see it my way, I have a hard time letting go. I challenge you to accept all! Your coworkers don’t like your idea for a new project? Fine! Your boss doesn’t approve of a report you submitted? Perfect! When we resist, we struggle, so take the resistance away.

2.    Participate in active listening: When you are conversing, tune your whole attention to the person to whom you are. All too often, our minds wander and/or we are busy preparing for a break in the conversation to insert our own stories. Stop. Listen with your whole heart and mind.

3.    Think before you speak or act: I understand how tempting it is to fire off a snarky email or march up to someone and tell them off. Those behaviors will not help you at work. First, think: what will I accomplish by doing this? How will I feel inside? How will the other feel inside? Respect yourself and the other enough to speak and act intentionally.

There we have it, friends; six quick tips for promoting positive relationships at work. Comments are welcome!

Namaste,

Michelle

Creating Your Private Sanctuary

We hear a lot about the benefits of meditation. A regular meditation practice can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression; all while increasing happiness and focus. There are many ways to meditate: sitting, standing, walking in nature, gardening, Tai Chi, or even dancing. Engaging in any of these activities--as long as you are focusing on being present--will bring about a calmer state of mind and inner peace. In addition, many of them can be done just about anywhere.

But what about when you need time just to sit and think? I often feel a need to "get away" from things in general and immerse myself in my private sanctuary. This is what I call my meditation space--an area in my home with one purpose: to act as an oasis, a safe haven for me. The key to creating this space is fairly simple: do what feels awesome for you. So how do you create a private sanctuary? Follow these easy steps to make or enhance your space:

1.  Choose a space that makes you feel good.  Think about natural light, traffic, and noises. The area you are creating will be used for quiet contemplation, so really take some time with this decision. It does not necessarily have to be a whole room, although it certainly could be. Mine is in a guest bedroom, between our daybed and the wall: not huge by any means! If it's a small space within a room, you can create more privacy with a screen or curtain: whatever makes you feel good.

2.  Keep the space and the room it's in simple and uncluttered.  Keeping my space uncluttered is easy (unless it's right after a trip to the crystal shop!), but maintaining that for the guest bedroom is sometimes a challenge. Choose items that are meaningful, positive, and beautiful to keep in your space. The old adage less is more is true here. Consider altars you might see in a church or synagogue: full of purpose, beauty, and significance. Hold this same standard for your private oasis.

3.  Consider your needs.  Where will you sit? A chair, meditation pillow, or bench may be needed. What about music? If you choose not to use your phone for this, plan out a space for a radio or CD player. Perhaps you like the thought of using essential oils when you meditate. Visualize yourself in this space and what you will need to make it a blissful experience.

The tools to create a private space are in your hands.  Set your intention to creating your area and make it happen!  I would love to hear about your journey in creating your beautiful sanctuary.

 

 

 

Using the 4 Ds to Get Things DONE!

I, like many of you, have a plethora of things to do.  There are tasks related to my career (making name tags, reaching out to parents, report cards, etc, etc, etc...), home (the ever growing To Do List), personal development (refining my meditation practice) and business (this blog post for example!).  We all have SO MUCH on our plates!  So...how do we get through it all?  Where do we even begin?  I'm going to introduce you to a tool which has significantly helped me organize and prioritize: The Four Ds.  

1.  Get a piece of paper and divide it into four sections.  Write one label at the top of each box.  The labels are: DO IT, DELEGATE IT, DROP IT, DISCUSS IT

2.  Start in the DO IT box. List three things you need to do, fix or work on.  It can be anything.  Fix the upstairs railing, make a grocery list, organize under the bed, etc.

3.  In the DELEGATE IT box, list three things you can do, but need extra help with.  Examples may be choosing a paint color for the living room, creating a web page or researching the best suitcase for overseas travel. 

4.  Next, move to the DROP IT box.  Here you'll list three things that you worry about but have no control over.  Do we have enough money for a vacation?  What if I'm no good at meditating?  What will other people think of my career change?  These are things that concern you but you can't control.

5.  Finally, in the DISCUSS IT box, you will list three things that may keep you from reaching your goals.  For example: you want to start meditating but have no one to watch your kids.  Or you want to have a rummage sale but can't organize it alone.  These are the things which could get in the way of your goals.

Look at all the work you did!  You are now ready to begin tackling some of your tasks.  Decide which D you want to start with (Do It, Delegate It or Discuss It) and let go of the items in the Drop It box.  I hope you're able to use this tool with success.  The key is to be gentle with yourself ~ no one is perfect: mistakes and setbacks will happen.  Accept this as part of the process of learning and growing.  Please comment below or on Facebook and let me know how it works for you!

 

Rabbit in the Sky

Some of you may be aware that we lost both of our fur babies in 2016.  Macca (our dog) and Vera (our rabbit) were more than pets to Paul and me.  Going through the grieving process for both of them was humbling, life altering, and painful (watch for a Working with Grief blog, coming soon).

Macca and Vera have been our babies since we adopted them in 2004.  They both had unique personalities, likes (and dislikes) and beautiful souls.  I swear I could *hear* their thoughts when I was being irritating, overburdening, or too affectionate.

In June of 2017 we took our first big trip after having lost them both.  It was difficult for me to leave home set out on our journey.  When we had Macca and Vera I had anxiety about leaving them.  What if something happened when we were gone?  How would we get home fast enough?   Did we leave detailed instructions?  All these "what-ifs" abated as soon as we were a few hours from home (with the help of constant texts from Auntie Jenna).  However, since losing them both, it was almost worse to leave.  No one waiting for us at home.  No one to text Auntie Jenna about.  No photos to look forward to of Macca messing up the bed and Vera sitting in her pile of hay.  With great pain in my heart, we left for Canada.

My husband is kind enough to do all the driving on our trips, which gives me lots of time to look at the scenery, which I LOVE.  I also have ample opportunity to think.  Some of my best thoughts occur to me in the silence of the car, watching trees and houses go by.  A few hours into our trip, dusk was falling.  The sky was turning a perfect shade of blue and the moon was coming into view.  I could see it peeking in and out of the clouds the further North we traveled.  My thoughts were on Vera and what a unique and wonderful rabbit she was.  I was missing her company significantly.

All of a sudden, I looked up at the sky and, imagine my awe, when I saw the perfect silhouette of a rabbit sitting in a hand.  The image was created by the moon shining through some clouds.  It was astonishing.  I could hardly think, let alone speak. Eventually I found my voice and told Paul - who was equally amazed - about seeing a rabbit in the sky.  I burst into tears.  My baby was up there.  She was telling me she was happy and missing me, as well.  It was a beautiful affirmation from the Universe - Vera is happy, she is well, you will see her again.  I look forward to that day.

This story makes me cry every time I retell it, it touches me so deeply.  The Universe cares for us and wants us to be happy.  Therefore, it tries to give us what we want.  What I had wanted was my rabbit.  Since I couldn't have her in the physical sense, the Universe did the next best thing by sending me a message: the image of a rabbit in the sky.

I miss you every day, Vera.  Until we meet again at the Rainbow Bridge...

 

Answering the Call

I have been a highly successful and skilled educator for almost 20 years. What am I thinking, considering a career change? How can I just walk away from almost two decades of commitment to the field of education?

The decision took hours of meditation and listening. Yes, listening; specifically to what the Universe was telling me.  

For the past five years or so I have felt that working with young children was no longer my "thing." I took a deeper interest in coaching adults. I have the privilege of being an internal coach at my school. In a nutshell, I help teachers create a positive school environment. My desire to do this full-time ~ work with adults and guide them ~ opened up something in me that was hidden. I had never considered such a career before. That was my first clue.

Along with this, I became more interested in meditation, Tarot cards, connecting to spirits, etc., and less interested in finding a new strategy to help my kids become stronger readers. My path into connecting with the Universe felt right - very natural, as if this had been my purpose all along. That was my second clue.

My third clue came in the form of my current class - by far the most challenging (for a variety or reasons) I have ever worked with. Every day is a struggle, for a multitude of reasons. This prompted the thought, Is this really what I want to do for another 25 years? Isn't there more than this? That was my third and final clue that, yes, indeed, the Universe IS telling me something and guiding me on a path to personal and professional change.

Along the way there have been hundreds of other minute things which have aided me in this decision. Certain songs that came on the radio at just the right time. Dreams that show me the true purpose of my life. Animals that come at the perfect time with a message to guide me on my journey. I keep listening . . . and I pay careful attention to what the Universe is offering me.

The Universe is calling to you, too.  What is it saying?  What area of your life needs attention?  Listen - the world is giving you answers every day.