On teaching and learning

Yesterday I finished the fourth and final session of a girls’ empowerment course that I was teaching every other week for an hour at a local community center.

During the third session I had an eye-opening realization working with these young women (ages 12-14). We got into a discussion of safety and violence, and once again my privilege slapped me in the face. Many of these women had observed or experienced violence in their families or with close loved ones in ways I am unlikely to ever understand.

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I had begun reading the book “My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies” by Resmaa Manakem. I wish I had discovered it when I first designed the course. There are many amazing practices that are yoga-like to help both black bodies, white bodies, and police bodies heal the trauma of racism in America.

I managed to teach “legs up the wall” pose first as a calming pose. Then we laid on the floor to do belly breathing for a couple of minutes and to notice where we felt the breath. We tried crocodile (on our bellies) to again notice where we felt the breath. After a few cat/cow transitions, there was silliness and I realized 15 minutes of yoga was the upper limit for this group on this day.

Though this group of women rejected “yoga” when I attempted it on the first class, by starting with legs up the wall, as a way to calm the nervous system, they seemed open to the other poses as well. Less talking, more demonstrating and practice in the future. Good lessons for me.

I thanked this group for being my teachers in this class. They seemed surprised that I would put it like that. But they taught me far more than I could teach them.

On the eve of another 3-day yoga teacher training weekend (#6 of 7), even if I am unable to count those hours toward my practicum requirement as initially planned, I am profoundly grateful.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Workplace Wellness – from Gallup

This week I am going a little “light” on the writing. I am preparing for YTT weekend number 5, and trying to get set up for a good experience.

I read an article from Gallup New entitled: Your Boss Could Be Bad — or Good — for your Health. I decided I really must share it, because Gallup is reputable organization that does good and validated research. Someday maybe toxic workplaces will be considered a public health risk.

This article focuses on the value of trust in workplaces. This is something I always want to promote, trust and trust-worthiness among my teams and colleagues. The Gallup article explains why.

boss Gallup article
Straight stolen from the Gallup article

If you are not working in a place that feels safe, and that values your strengths, consider working with a coach to help you find alternatives to your current situation. My own coach (Elizabeth) helped me see how my values need to be represented in my work setting in order to feel fulfilled each day.

Wow, am I ever glad she was there to help me articulate those ideas in a new way. It has helped me see what I need to feel happy and well.

Have a wonderful “hump” day! Enjoy the midweek and mid-summer.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

Workplace Wellness – You have time

I am just coming out of my first two days at my new job, meeting people and learning more about what I have signed up to accomplish. It is exciting and exhilarating.

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My new work space at the University

It is also like one of my colleagues described it, “like drinking water from a fire hose.” There are a lot of new concepts to absorb, and research units to understand, training to complete, and meetings to schedule.

Over the lunch hour, I attended a session from the Office of the VP for Research on Vulnerable Populations. It was a fascinating look at the fact that researchers sometimes take a paternalistic perspective to protect research participants. But we do not always consider the injustice of excluding certain types of candidates for research, and how this may actually deny treatment alternatives.

Fascinating stuff. I can tell this job is going to challenge my thinking and open me up to new perspectives. I love that.

I also know that by the end of the day, around 4:45 p.m. after two full days of meetings, and a mini-celebration dinner with friends for my birthday on Monday, I was wiped. My brain felt worked and tired.

I considered pushing through and working longer. Then I opened my journal and opted for a short reflection on the day, old-fashioned pen and paper style. It helped clarify my thoughts and questions.

On the 12 minute walk to my car to begin the commute home, I considered what might be a helpful mantra, given a slight feeling of being overwhelmed by expectations. Ultimately I decided on “you have time.”

WORKPLace wellness on wednesdays

You have time to learn the new job (and it is okay that you don’t know everything you need to know/do in the first couple days)

You have time to get to know the department.

You have time to map out a strategy and plan.

You have time to absorb the information you need. You were hired because of your expertise, experience and capabilities, not because you know everything.

You have time to enlist the support you need to be successful.

After a few minutes of deep breathing and chanting this simple mantra to myself, it started to resonate in my body. I felt that familiar relaxation response, when my mind starts to believe what I am “feeding” it via conscious thoughts, and my body lets go of anxiety.

The next time you find yourself flipping into a mental script has you feeling overwhelmed, you might tell yourself that “you have time.” See what effect it has on your body, and your feelings. You have time.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Resilience workshop

On Monday I had the honor of sharing some favorite meditation practices during a workshop on the Neuroscience of Resilience with an engaged group of job-seekers. When we are in times of transition or challenge, being able to engage our parasympathetic nervous system to calm the body is key. We can bring a sense of equanimity and balance to decisions and actions we take.

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Photo credit link

The group was excellent. They participated readily, brought their perspectives into the room and asked great questions. I really enjoyed pulling together the presentation and materials for this session. I had in mind the struggle of being between jobs and careers, and I know this can be a place of uncertainty and stress. It can also be a place of discovery and growth, should we choose to embrace that side of the process.

It takes self-compassion to remain resilient in the face of challenges or struggles. Those of us who have harsh inner critics can feel as though we need to “reprogram” ourselves in a way. Self-criticism can be so habitual that it feels automatic. But when we access that higher self, that inner mentor, and allow ourselves some kindness, paradoxically we find it easier to take actions and move forward.

This group is able to tap the resources of Career Partners International, so they are fortunate to have support during their transition. I hope I was able to add to their toolkit of resources to help them along the journey. What a great privilege it is to be able to share on a topic I have studied for so many years for my own benefit, and on behalf of the teams I have led.

I am humbled and grateful.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

 

The Just Right Stimulus

I have been learning a concept in yoga teacher training that is getting me to rethink how I approach the activities in my day. It is the notion of the “just right stimulus” when it comes to doing yoga poses, or deciding how to modify them for optimal benefit.

Since yoga aims mobilize, stabilize and strengthen our bodies, we must apply certain principles to achieve those goals. The idea is that when we receive that just right stimulus, we can increase the mobility of our joints, we can stabilize and align our spine and further, strength our body and optimize our health.

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My cat Willy likes to use my therapeutic spinal strip as a cat toy. Apparently he finds it to be an irresistible stimulus and cannot seem to stay away from it when I leave it within reach.

When we overdo a stretch or push our bodies too hard, injuries develop over time. In contrast, when we under-use our bodies, neglecting the mobility of our joints, or losing the strength in our muscles and bones by not moving enough, our body can atrophy. We then become less physically capable over time.

Our minds are like this too. When we are constantly “on” – doing, thinking, absorbing, seeking input and running around, we can become over-stimulated. As someone who is neuro-diverse with variable focus, this can be all too easy to do. In contrast, becoming too passive, such as vegging out in front of the t.v. for hours at a time, or allowing our minds become listless and dull, does not serve us. It then will required more energy to focus, think and be purposeful in our actions if we develop a habit of mental passivity.

Our bodies and souls need periods of activity and rest to stay in their optimal condition. These cycles vary from hour to hour, day to day and even month to month, seasonally and in the various phases of our lives. Indeed psychiatrist Dan Siegel coined the term “window of tolerance” to describe the optimal arousal of our nervous system.

In cultivating resilience in ourselves, it is important to develop some internal sensing of when we are not too hot, not too cold, but just right (remember Goldilocks and the three bears?)  Stephen Porges, PhD called this “neuroception” in his exploration of Polyvagal Theory, which helps us understand how safe states are sensed, and how the social engagement system can help us self-regulate.

When we go about our daily life, we find that we move in and out of the optimal state and this is a normal part of living. What is important is that we find ways to get ourselves back to more balance so that we can bring our full presence and engagement into our relationships and our work.

There are many practices that can help us with this. I will be exploring some that I find particularly beneficial in the next couple of weeks as I prepare to deliver a workshop on the neuroscience of resilience for a local client. I hope they will be helpful to you as well!

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Ice breaker speech – done!

How many of you on my readership list are current or former members of a Toastmasters club?

I am curious, because if you are, you will know what an “ice breaker speech” is intended to do. It is a way of introducing yourself to the club in a 5-7 minute speech, and helping them to get to know you better.

Whenever I have to speak on a topic for which I have expertise, I feel comfortable. It is harder to give a speech about myself, because it feels more vulnerable and personal. However, after practicing using the voice recorder on my phone in the morning before the speech, I delivered in a way that felt authentic.

My main purpose was to explain the reasons I joined Toastmasters and give them some insight about my motivations, values and goals. I used the term “white Mexican” to describe how I see the world. I was pleased that I got great feedback on the speech and the evaluator thought I used humor, eye contact and gestures very effectively in the speech.

All in all, I am happy to be done with that one. I was not able to write out the speech or even put together an outline. I like to speak a bit more extemporaneously but somehow I found the words I needed by staying present and focused. I am grateful that it is a very kind an encouraging group, so I am looking forward to growing alongside the as we practice our public speaking, evaluation and leadership skills.

Thanks to all of you who encouraged me as I struggled with procrastination. I felt a huge surge of energy after this project was completed. I know the next one will go much better! The ice is broken!

ice broken
Photo credit link

Happy Spring!

cristy@meximinnesotana.com