What do you most want to learn?

It is said that we teach what we most want to learn. Research is “me search.”

One of the exercises I have tried while crafting my “offer” to my ideal clients is to consider the topics I most enjoy exploring through writing. By looking at my “tag cloud” or my category list, well-being and consciousness are big on my list. I also love thinking about and experimenting with how to increase employee engagement and career satisfaction.

Regarding my well-being focus for the past few years: in 2015-2016 I realized I had gained more weight and life felt stressful. More travel and meetings were required of my position as a manager for an international division. I knew something had to change. I did not like the feeling of my clothes getting tighter, or my need to take the “edge off” with a glass of wine as soon as I got home each day.

I decided to take a 10-day pause from my nightly glass (or 3) of wine when I came home each night. Whew, lots of emotional stuff came up. Then I realized I’d started taking the “edge” off by over-eating more often, or justifying extra chocolate or dessert because my day had been stressful and “I deserved it” I told myself.

But what if I could live a life where I did not feel a need to buffer my emotions with alcohol or food? What if I could learn to feel my difficult and uncomfortable feelings, without needing to dull them? 

As someone slightly on the introvert side of the introversion/extroversion spectrum, being with people for the majority of my day is taxing. Susan Cain advises introverts to find “restorative niches” of quiet or tranquility in our day, in order not to be overwhelmed by the social interaction required.

As a nexus point for 5 different departments and many different countries and regional units, it felt like constantly being “under fire” from far too many bosses or project managers, to whom I was accountable, even though I technically reported to just one director.

Restorative niche? Only if I could work at home (and I did now and then). I craved “deep work” assignments when I could have uninterrupted time to work on a project or develop a tool or workload model, for example. But the number of conference calls and meetings grew exponentially with the number of different initiatives we were called upon to execute.

I got really good at saying “no” toward the end, and also much better at delegating to fellow team members while developing their skills. Not always a popular choice for the entities which funded our small team. But a necessity nonetheless, since we were not able to deliver high quality results when spread too thin.

Fall inlove with taking care of yourself. (1)

So what do I want to teach and learn?

  • We must make conscious choices in our lives. We cannot do it all, nor should we. We must decide on what is essential and strategic, and do only that.
  • Wellness is non-negotiable. Our employer may think our mid-day run or yoga class is optional, but for many of us, it is the restoration we need to be most productive.
  • Working harder is not an option. Most of us are already maxed out. Working smarter is an alternative. Turning down calendar appointments is an option. Setting boundaries and expectations and communicating those is critical.
  • Being willing to receive tough feedback as a leader is essential. When people know you trust them, and are willing to listen and make changes, or help influence the process based on feedback, they trust you. Trust is essential to getting the work done efficiently.

These are some of the hardest lessons I had to learn in my time as an operational manager in a very large medical device company.

What do you most want to learn? Do you spend time writing about this topic as well? 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

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Letting life unfold

My body has been sending me a lot of messages lately about allowing for rest and play in addition to work. It is quite interesting. I sometimes find when I am planning or stressing about something, there is this uncomfortable pit in my stomach.

When I notice that slight pain, and I come back to the present and just breathe, typically it releases. I know that people talk a lot about making detailed plans for their future endeavors. And normally I subscribe to at least having a loose plan, and a vision for the future.

Something in me is telling me not to make super concrete plans just yet, and to play a little looser for now. I typically start with a “shape of the week” plan and then time block in 2-3 hour increments.

I start with a healthy dose of time for writing, reading and thinking from 6-9 a.m. That is when my mind is clearest, after I have meditated and had my coffee. Then from 9-12 I either go to a yoga class, a dance class, or sometimes a coffee meeting with a colleague.

Noon to 2 p.m. is blocked off for my lunch break and any small errands I may have to do, or sometimes just a little nap break or a podcast. Then 2-5 I work on things that do not require as much focus, sending email correspondence or doing smaller projects.  I do not work in the evening, unless I am very inspired to write something in particular.

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I find that keeping a very regular routine helps me sleep better and also I can produce “on demand” when the time is scheduled for me to do so. Right now I am taking it one week (and sometimes one day) at a time.

When I get very excited about an idea, I follow that path. When I feel a sense of dread, I avoid that path. Right now, that seems to be where I need to be, just letting life unfold, not getting too caught up in doing all the right things.

I recognize the privilege of allowing this time. I also remind myself that I planned for it. I trust that using this “body meter” intuition to follow what is right for me will lead me where I am called.

How is your life unfolding? Do you ever doubt the process of finding your path? What helps you nurture that trust in yourself?

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Dance as rhythmic sunshine

On Wednesday morning it was rainy and gloomy for a fourth straight day in the Twin Cities. It can be get cold here, but usually we do not have days and days of rain on end. Winter may be icy, but there is usually sunshine intermittently. “Clear and cold” is often the forecast in January, February and March, when it is not snowing.

Even snow is more preferable to me than days and days of rain. Okay, yes. A couple of cloudy days doesn’t usually spoil my mood but 3-4+? Oy. I treated myself to some extra light box this morning. Though I had not slept very well and suffered some insomnia, I was truly NOT going to miss my Zumba class with Ruth at Tula Yoga and Wellness!

Zumba
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I have begun attending Zumba twice a week since I returned from vacation in September (there’s a Monday night class) and I find that I am learning faster in practicing more often. I make no claims at being “good” at dancing. But we dance to upbeat Latin, Reggaeton and Pop music that is super fun and energizing.

I told Ruth this morning that her class is like rhythmic sunshine to brighten up our day! Indeed, after the class, I felt happy and energized. Every class, as I am learning how to dance, beginning to feel the rhythms and getting the footwork down, I am building some “muscle memory” on the routines.

My determination to learn to dance this year is going very nicely since I started out with the foundations class back in June.

Dance is teaching me many new things:

It reminds me how much I love good music, and moving my body is a natural extension of that.

It does not matter if I do it perfectly. I am a beginner, and I am in it to have fun, get exercise and feel more comfortable in my body. Yoga was a big part to starting that process, but dance is a great extension to that.

Putting all the things together at once is not always possible for me, and that’s okay. Sometimes I have to master the footwork before I can add the arms. Sometimes I miss a “shimmy” or my hips are slower to catch on to a particular move, and I need to ask for a demo of a more challenging step. No matter, it’s all part of learning.

Dance is about expressing joy physically. When I was too self-conscious to let myself dance, I missed out on that. But now I am just making up for lost time. At 44, I feel really good about that!

Cheers,

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

 

Edginess

I write this reflection with a feeling of edginess in my body, and unresolved tension in my throat and my heart related to recent political events.

The confirmation of Justice Kavanaugh feels like yet another assault on women. I realize that the circumstances surrounding the testimony of Professor Ford had some unconfirmed facts. But it haunts me to know that our political and legal systems have added to the most important court in our nation someone who’s character I would deem unfit for this appointment.

My question now involves what my role will be in the next election, and in future political activities. I know that until we have a shift in power, and more women and others who are underrepresented in this process, we will continue to fall short of the ideals of this nation.

Years ago I was very active in electoral politics. I volunteered with campaigns, managed a winning city council campaign, and I engaged in phone calling and door-to-door voter outreach. This is despite my introvert preference to do the “quieter” types of activism, that do not involve meeting large numbers of new people.

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Photo credit link – BT News

In an earlier era of my life, I felt a sense of urgency in my activities. While I still feel urgency in some ways, my activism may take another form this time around. I went back to my master’s thesis on “Mythical Condensation in Electoral Politics” completed in 2006 to review some of the ideas I had then about what is happening today.

Much of it still rings true, particularly on the polarizing effects of our political discourse today:

I argue that political candidate success is a function of mythic condensation or voter consumerism rather than issue positions or leadership competence.

Yes. Today, more than ever these concepts apply to the political realm. Back in those days I used discourse analysis and drew from the disciplines of linguistics, social psychology, media studies and political science to make my argument.

The 40-page document took a great deal of effort for me to “birth” at the time. But I look back fondly at having the privilege to think and write that analysis. Myth and metaphor continue to be relevant in how we construct our political truths. We use cognitive frames to interpret the world while conveniently ignoring facts.

Neuroscience explains how our choice of language shapes our beliefs. And myths “naturalize” what is historical artifact. Rhetoric and imagery appeal to our emotions, while realities are constructed of symbolism in which polarities seem to thrive.

For now, my question of what I will do in this final month before the next election remains unresolved. The edginess remains.

 

 

How NOT to do yoga

Hi Friends,

It is Friday! I wish you an excellent weekend ahead!

I was thinking about my yoga “evangelism” and some subtle things I have not explored on this blog about the differences in types of yoga. Based on some questions/comments that readers have contributed, and my recent bad experience with a hot vinyasa class which actually triggered my fight/flight/freeze response, I thought it would be valuable to comment further.

On Monday I was working in the morning and missed the hatha yoga class I planned o attend. I had a hankering for a class so I searched the available ones at the different branches of my gym and found a noon class not too far away. It was vinyasa (or flow) yoga, a class in which there tends to be continuous motion throughout the class.

This particular gym tends to pair upbeat rock music with the flow sequences, at least after the teacher walks through the sequence once or twice. Then we flow on our own, and sometimes the music is turned up. In this particular class the music was turned up so loud I actually got triggered, and immediately considered leaving the room, it felt so loud and uncomfortable.

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I nearly left the room but first I searched for the teacher and asked if she could turn it down slightly. She did. The class was “energetic” but I took breaks as necessary during the flow and did not get caught up with what everyone else was doing. I made the practice my own and adapted to what my body needed, as I have been taught by several wise teachers. 

After the class I explained what had happened to the teacher. She told me not all teachers at the gym would be as willing to accommodate but that they could supply earplugs if they were needed. I was so shocked by this, given what I have come to value about yoga, and its value on soothing my nervous system and coming back to the body.

The practice I am most fond of can be described as hatha yoga. At this gym, the most similar practice is called “root” and at other venues it may be described as mindful yoga.  I also enjoy soma yoga, which is a process of teaching the body to let go of involuntary patterns of holding that we sometimes develop subconsciously over time.

The point of this comment today is that not all yoga classes are the same. It is important to give yourself the opportunity to try different classes and different teachers to see what works best for you. While there may be classes that are challenging in terms of developing your strength, all good teachers understand that some students may need to adapt their practice.

YOU are the only one who knows what is right for your body. No teacher should ever push you beyond your limits. They simply cannot know if you have injuries or vulnerabilities that affect your practice. Even if you spend an entire hour laying on the mat in savasana (corpse pose) and focus on your breathing, you have done your yoga.

Cheers,

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Happy birthday to my dear husband!

My husband is 50 today! (Okay, maybe he won’t like it that I am sharing his age).

But I think he is a fabulous 50 so I am going to sing his praises for a while and embarrass him.

Top Reasons he is the perfect husband for me:

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  1. He is patient.
  2. He is kind.
  3. He forgives my ability to clutter up a room just by walking into it (he knows I have a.d.d. and never makes me feel ashamed of it).
  4. My animals love him. Sometimes more than me, but I’ll let that slide.
  5. My family loves him. Not that this was a criteria for marrying him, but it certainly helps.
  6. He has a great sense of humor.
  7. He can still make a camp fire if we have wet wood and no matches!
  8. He knows I love to make salads, and I am a pretty pathetic cook, and he loves me anyway.
  9. He introduced me to motorcycling.
  10. He encourages me to do work I love because he believes in me, and trusts my potential. Also, he knows I like to travel so I won’t tolerate poverty for too long without getting my butt in gear. 😉
  11. He tolerates my crazy ideas (like walking all over the U.K.), and sometimes even encourages them!
  12. He captured my heart 8 years ago. Did I mention he’s a patient man?

The cake is ordered, Amor!  Looking forward to celebrating with our friends this Friday!

cristy@meximinnesotana.com