Healing Lessons from Popular Music 04: "Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow" by Funkadelic

Healing Lessons from Popular Music 04: "Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow" by Funkadelic

“Free your mind and your ass will follow

The kingdom of heaven is within.”

I feel like this song is speaking to what happens in physical healing when we are willing to shift our mindset. Riffing off of a previous post about Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song,” when we are no longer caught up in cultural tropes that keep us unwell, i.e. “I have to do everything myself,” we are able to do what’s right for us, instead of what we think we should do. This alignment of thought, heart, and action allows energy to move more freely in the body and can manifest as relief from pain and illness. This is why so many of my clients start feeling better physically after a few months of coaching. They stop sabotaging themselves and start acting with coherence and alignment and the body responds.

Recently I have found that the reverse of this is also true, that if you free your ass, your mind will follow. March - May of this year were pretty intense for me. My favorite healthcare practitioner died, I moved unexpectedly, several of my family members got sick, and I ended a three year relationship with someone I thought I’d spend the rest of my life with. And, on top of that came more and more bad news about our president, concentration camps on our soil, proposed limits on abortion, etc. The only way I could deal with all the sadness, anger, and angst that came up in me was to move it through my body. For me, this looked liked running, swimming, and dancing. Dancing was the most effective, and I did it in my beloved Afro Flow Yoga classes, as well as in my kitchen and living room. 

Speaking to “the kingdom of heaven is within,” I love supporting folks to tap into and cultivate their intuition because you already have everything you need inside of you to heal fully. Once you clear the bullshit (trauma and self-limiting thoughts) out of the way, you start to see the road map to victory with more ease. And the more you tune in, the clearer and clearer the path becomes. IT’S SO FREAKING AMAZING WHAT YOU CAN LEARN FROM YOUR BODY WHEN YOU LISTEN!

Listen to “Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow” here.

Healing Lessons from Popular Music 03: "Everything is Everything" by Ms. Lauryn Hill

Healing Lessons from Popular Music 03: "Everything is Everything" by Ms. Lauryn Hill

“Everything is everything

What is meant to be, will be

After winter, must come spring

Change, it comes eventually”

 Everything is everything is another way of saying that everything is personal and collective. We cannot separate the two. I get livid listen to popular healers who make healing out to be an individual responsibility. They tell us that if we just eat the right things, in the right ways, and do the right practices, we’ll feel better, beat cancer, avoid cancer, live longer, blah, blah, blah.  

Then a lot of people, desperate for good health, take this advice, they do all the “right” things, and they don’t feel better. Or they feel better for a while but then they relapse. That is because this individualistic approach to healing doesn’t take the collective into account. It’s more of the American pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps narrative that keeps us from experiencing collective health and freedom. And the popular hyper-individualistic approach to healing can be really traumatic when people don’t have success with the protocols they’re prescribed and their healers make it out to be their fault. Patients are left to assume that something must be wrong with them, when in fact they’re being asked to heal, mostly alone, in the context of generations-worth of toxic and oppressive influences. 

Drinking celery juice and doing coffee enemas everyday could really change your inner landscape but it won’t change factors like pollution, pesticides in our food system, systemic racism, and the capitalist-informed busyholism that causes dis-ease. 

This is one of the biggest failings of the wellness industry in the United States. You can bust your ass to heal yourself and it will be really challenging as long as the collective is still unwell. Unless you are fortunate enough to get hide under a rock off grid somewhere, you’re going to be trying to heal in an environment that is culturally and environmentally antithetical to healing. 

Part of how we survive this, and work to reverse it, is to see that our healing is bound up in the healing of our neighbors and the earth around us, and grasp every opportunity we can to support collective healing. This is what it means to see that everything is everything. You can see that it’s just as important to say “hi” to your neighbor and use natural resources responsibly as it is to get yourself to yoga class.

When we are willing to treat everything as everything, it allows us to be in right relationship with ourselves, each other, the earth, and the universe. Understanding this and acting from this knowing is fundamental to healing fully, in part because it keeps us connected to the bigger picture making it easier to not sweat the small stuff.

When we are in right relationship with the earth and each other, it is easier to roll with the punches and the natural ebbs and flows of life. Instead of feeling like something to complain about or fight against, we understand upsets as just energy doing its thing. We can resist it or allow ourselves to go with the flow. :)

Listen to the song here.

Healing Lessons from Popular Music 02: "Bag Lady "by Erykah Badu

Healing Lessons from Popular Music 02: "Bag Lady "by Erykah Badu

“Bag lady you gon’ hurt your back/Dragging all them bags like that. I guess nobody ever told you/All you must hold onto, is you, is you, is you.”

Ooof. This song! As a yoga teacher, when I hear this song I think about aparigraha, one of the yamas in Patanjali’s eight limbs of yoga which concerns the virtue of non-hoarding, non-grasping, or non-attachment.

The lesson of aparigraha is to take only what you need, hold on to just what you need in the moment, and be okay with releasing everything else, because so much of what we hold on to does not serve us

Of all the virtues that Patanjali spelled out, this is the one I’ve come back to the most in my healing journey. A big part of my healing has been letting go of expectations again and again, and learning to surrender to what is and what is unknown. 

One of the biggest things I had to let go of was the desire to get back to where I was. For some time I just wanted to “be healthy again.” But what I thought of as normal, life before I got sick, was actually what made me sick in the first place.

Once I surrendered to the possibilities that 1) I might always feel sick and 2) even if I started feeling physically awesome my life would be completely different, I experienced a new level of spaciousness. In that space, I experienced less despair, more ease, and saw new possibilities for living a life I loved while I was healing.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but you actually have to let go of the idea of wellness for a little while in order to see what you need to do to get there. Constantly search for the answer outside yourself distracts from the answers within. In order to hear the answers within, you need to slow the F down, see that you’re not in control, listen to what your body needs in the moment, and honor that request.

All you really need to heal is you so that’s actually all you have to hold on to. :)

Once a week for the next few weeks, I’ll choose a song and explore what it can teach us about healing. 🎤 For tips on how to heal yourself sign up for my email list here: https://www.noellejanka.com/contact

Listen to “Bag Lady.”

Healing Lessons from Popular Music 01: Redemption Song

Healing Lessons from Popular Music 01: Redemption Song

Once a week for the next few weeks, I’ll choose a song and explore what it can teach us about healing. 🎤 Music has always been my greatest healer and has kept me alive in more ways that one. Sign up for my email list to catch the whole series and learn more about me and my healing work https://www.noellejanka.com/contact 
----

Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song”

“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery
None but ourselves can free our minds”

I don’t like to use the word slavery lightly but as my understanding of healing has grown and shifted, I am seeing more clearly how our mental landscape keeps us unwell.

We all have what my mentor Maria Nemeth calls “structures of knowing,” or ways of organizing information that we developed while growing up to understand how the world works. The structures of knowing in themselves aren’t good or bad, but it can be useful to observe them and see if they are serving us.

While coaching people on healing journeys for the last four years, I’ve noticed a lot of trends – common structures of knowing that have been shaped by the American culture of capitalism, individualism, and puritan work ethic. These show up as blocks around asking for support and slowing down. What’s behind them is usually 1) shame about asking for help, because we’re supposed to be able to be independent and figure things out on our own, and 2) an unwillingness to slow down, leave a job, or rest for fear of being unproductive.

When people realize that these ideas about support and productivity are not their own, they can come back to what IS true for them. For example, “I’m tired AF and want to ask for help taking care of my mom since I’m already working full time and in school. My cousins have already offered to come twice a week.”

When we surrender to what is true, we can make choices that are in alignment with what we’d love and what we really need. Clearing away thought patterns that keep us unwell, allow us to see what would make us well. Like if you actually accepted help from your cousins, you might get to do just that much more self-care, which might give you that much more joy and energy to pour into the rest of your life.

The invitation in Marley’s classic song is to notice where your mind has been enslaved or colonized. The song is also a reminder that only we are truly able to do that for ourselves. It might be nice to have some support along the way, perhaps from a coach, therapist, or people in your community who are game to hold you accountable, but you have to be interested in - and willing - to dive into the process of examining your structures of knowing.

We create the structures to survive in this crazy oppressive system. It’s normal. But only by observing and shifting them can we achieve true personal and collective healing.

Coming back to healing again and again

Coming back to healing again and again

"Things are simpler than I think they are." This is my mantra for the day.

I feel like 2019 is slapping me in the face and asking, "Girl. are you ready to grow for real, for real? 'Cause here's your opportunity."

On top of jetlag and the worst cold I've had in recent memory, I'm facing some big health and relationship growth opportunities.

In the past, I might have called them "challenges" but they really are opportunities -- Opportunities to be more aligned in two of the most important parts of my life right now.

And even though I can label them as such, I've felt a great deal of overwhelm and fear.

I've also felt disappointment seeing that all the work I've done hasn't been enough. I KNOW the journey is never really over but I'm tired. I KNOW that it's my journey to take but I still dream of letting someone else tell me what to do.

It's hard to see that I've been wearing rose-colored glasses, celebrating everything that has been working, but not telling the truth about what still needs attention.

It's true that I've healed from Lyme disease. It's also true that there's some post-Lyme fall out to address, that my metabolic systems aren't working properly, and at some point drinking coffee, crashing every couple weeks, and saying everything's good just isn't going to cut it anymore.

This morning in my meditation/reflection time I realized that the major fear coming up for me has been fear of financial scarcity.

Like how f-ed is that? I'm an anti-capitalist, I've done a lot of work on my money mindset, and fear of not having money is still threatening to destroy what's most dear to me.

I've been planning to lead a book study group on Maria Nemeth's The Energy of Money in February and I'm seeing now just how much I will personally benefit from the money mindset reboot that the book offers. 💰

My internal scarcity monkey has been saying:

Healing my body for real, for real is going to take a lot of time and energy. Healing my relationship is going to take time and a lot of emotional energy. If I put in that time and energy, I won't put enough work into my business, I won't be successful, I'll go back to be broke, everything will be hard, and life will be super poopy.

❤️ I can have compassion for myself as a Capricorn and a 3 on the Enneagram. I desperately want to be successful, I want to have the answers, fix things, do them efficiently, and be on top of it all.

But I also see that right now I have to allow myself to be fragile and flexible. Even typing that starts to bring tears to my eyes because it feels so scary to give up control, to not have a plan for every possible outcome.

THE TRUTH is that committing to healing (my body, spirit, and relationship) is the only way I'm ever going to be the person I want to be - the friend, the partner, the healer, the coach, the family member, and the citizen.

It's scary as shit but I'm willing.

Accountability check-ins are welcome. 💛

If you're also seeing that you could use support with financial scarcity worries in your life, let me know. I'd love to keep you in the loop for my upcoming group. 

Maybe Healing Isn't About What to Do But What to Stop Doing

Maybe Healing Isn't About What to Do But What to Stop Doing

Since being featured on the Healing Out Loud podcast in October, all kinds of Lyme folks have been contacting me wanting to hear more about what I’ve done to heal.

They have asked about the treatments, the doctors, the self-care routines, and while I have been happy to answer their questions, it’s hard doing so knowing that that information probably isn’t what they REALLY need to heal. This was making me uncomfortable but I didn’t know what do about it.

Then a mentor of mine helped me frame it in the clearest way. She said, “Noelle, it’s not what you did, it’s what you stopped doing.” Cue animation of my head exploding. She couldn’t be more correct.

In my case, when I met her four years ago, I was doing two big things that were keeping me from healing: I was pushing myself way too hard and I was unwilling to ask for support from the people in my life.

I would push myself to work, to do things for others, to go to the store, to try to make relationships work, all the while ignoring pleas from my body to act otherwise. I pushed because I was scared of what would happen if I stopped.

On a day-to-day basis, because my energy was unpredictable, when I felt I had some physical energy or mental clarity, I would want to make the most of it, doing as much as possible because I didn’t know when it would be unavailable and for how long.

In a more big picture sense, I’ve always had workaholic tendencies. I used to think that I couldn’t be successful unless I worked as hard as I possibly could. That, along with some guilt about class and race privilege, steered me away from myself – what I wanted and needed and what was true for me. I had let myself and who I really was fade into the background.

Getting the support of a coach helped me clearly just how much this pushing was hurting me. It also helped me muster the courage to slow-the-F-down. I didn’t know what would happen, or if it slowing down would even help my healing, but my coach helped me see that I was willing to give it a shot. The status quo sure wasn’t working.

Slowing down in the way I needed to necessitated asking for support. As much as I resisted asking for help, because I was ashamed of needing it, I wasn’t going to be able to heal all by myself, and deep down I didn’t want to.

Once I got over myself a little, I took some baby steps. I got rides places, borrowed cars to see out of town doctors, and asked friends if they’d be down for low key hangs. Later on, when I got more comfortable with the whole thing, I even asked for financial support from family and friends to see doctors and start my business. It wasn’t easy, but it turns out a lot of people wanted to help.

I’m sure I needed the herbs, the Ondamed, the neuroplasticity training, and the countless Epsom salt baths. And I’m sure they were helpful, but I’m CERTAIN I wouldn’t be where I am now if I hadn’t stopped pushing.


What the Body Knows

What the Body Knows

“The body knows things about which the mind is ignorant.” - Jacques Lecoq

If you follow me or my work at all then you probably know that I’m a huge proponent of cultivating intuition, particularly as a tool for healing health challenges.

I want to share a little story about how my own intuitive practice helped me last week.

I’ve been trying, with mixed results, to heal a bacterial imbalance in the gut and a deteriorated stomach lining (thanks antibiotics!), since February of this year. Sometimes my gut doesn’t bother me, sometimes it hurts, sometimes it’s super bloated. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but it’s not the easiest either.


A couple weeks ago I was both in pain and really depressed. Like, struggling to make myself do anything depressed. I had just spent four days trying to do the SCD intro diet, which looked like two days of sticking to it and two days of eating the diet AND binge eating potato chips.

I was exhausted and feeling lost about what to do next. It felt like my Naturopath was taking forever to get back to me. I was also questioning his expertise since his last recommendation had made things worse.

Then I remembered that I could just ask my body.

I lied down on the couch, took a minute to arrange pillows so I was super comfortable, placed my hands on my belly (skin to skin), and closed my eyes. I took deep breaths for several minutes, bringing my attention down into my belly. Then I asked it, “what do you need?”

The answer I got, with great clarity, was “a break.”

I kept inquiring.

“A break from what?”

“Solid food.”

“What would you like instead?”

“Juice. Soup. Celery juice. Chicken broth. Squash soup might be okay too”

“How long?”

“Three days.”

Feeling like the instructions were pretty clear, I started this modified cleanse the next day. I had only the things my belly asked for, ginger tea, and buckets of water.

I was surprised by how much easier it was to stick to this prescribed diet since it had come from within me, and not from some outside force. And in the first day and a half, when I experienced a near constant headache, I didn’t worry about it. I didn’t try to fix it. I just understood it was part of the process.

Interestingly, in the first two days of the cleanse, a hawk flew across my path each day as I was out walking. Hawks are understood by many cultures to be symbols of broadening awareness, observation skills, and even physic awareness (!!).

On day three, I woke up feeling pretty out of it so I consulted my belly again, “would it be okay to eat solid food again?” I got a strong “yes” and confirmation on which foods to start with.

After I ate, and even had a little coffee, I felt like a million bucks, like a whole new person, and so excited to be alive.

After days of wanting to talk to no one, I went to a brunch event thrown for my partner's theatre colleagues and shmoozed like a champ for a couple hours, enjoying every minute of it.

One of the most common struggles I hear from folks with health challenges, and particularly folks in my Lyme family, is never knowing what to do next. When health goes south or another promising medicine doesn’t help, there’s this painful looming question mark that keeps coming back. Naturally, we try to problem solve and because, most of the time, our mind doesn’t have the answer, we exhaust ourselves trying to decide between different options that may or may not provide any relief or healing.

The truth is that the body knows what the mind can’t. It also knows things before the mind. This is why we can jump out of the way of an oncoming car before our cognitive mind can tell us to move.

The more we can give the mind a rest and tap into the wisdom of our bodies, the easier healing becomes. Consulting the body facilitates alignment, since we’re doing exactly what the body wants and needs, and saves energy because we’re not riding the emotional see-saw of “Should I do this? Should I do that?” It can be hard to remember in the moment when things feel scary (I forget all the time) but we actually have the answers and our bodies can guide the way.

If you want to learn more about how to cultivate your own intuition so you can tap into your body’s vast wisdom and bring ease to your healing, send me a note and we can have a chat about it. ✨

My Lyme Disease Story

My Lyme Disease Story

I was recently featured on the podcast “Healing Out Loud with Jackie Shea.”

A fellow Lyme survivor, Jackie asked some great questions and gave me the opportunity to share some of the highs and lows of my healing journey – what was challenging and what ultimately helped me heal. Specifically I talk about the power of coaching, intuitive work, moving out of the city, and the Dynamic Neural Retraining System.

I also share how regularly tapping into your own intuition can help you navigate your healing journey with greater ease.

Check out the episode here, or wherever you get your podcasts.

My love affair with the creative process

My love affair with the creative process

The whole room smelled like beeswax. There were five whole pounds of it, that I had melted, one brick at a time, in a microwave on the other side of the building. The beeswax covered paper mache, which covered chicken wire, which covered a wooden frame generously created for me by my carpenter ex-boyfriend. It made a big yellow blob on the gallery floor.

Over the beeswax mass, meant to look like snot, were piles of tissues, prescription bottles, pills, cigarette boxes, and Diet Coke. The joke at Vanderbilt was that all the women lived off cigarettes and Diet Coke. I ate too but I wasn’t immune to the trends. Out of the yellow mass reached mannequin arms and legs wrapped in health insurance statements. Then there were things hanging from the ceiling. Fake flowers, a cleat, an Amartya Sen book.

I had never been given a budget to create art before. It was thrilling to get the check and order wax and mannequin parts on the internet. I felt like a mad scientist and wondered if people on the other side of my orders were wondering what I was up to. Even though I just needed the limbs, I couldn’t find enough disembodied mannequins and ended up with a spare torso. Melanie and I named her and, wrapped in Christmas lights, she became a centerpiece in our otherwise bare kitchen. We talked a big game about getting her nipple tassels, and different kinds for different holidays, but that dream never materialized.

I was creating. I was creating so hard that I ended up ugly crying in the arms of Judy Chicago. Known for being a ruthless critic, some would just say a bitch, she was surprisingly kind and comforting. She held me and told me I was okay. Surely I was not the first art maker to lose my shit in her presence.

I stayed up late many nights in a row, working on the sculpture by myself, happy that I could listen to my favorite music.  One night a friend came to visit and we snuck onto the roof to smoke pot. It felt so naughty, doing something so clearly unsafe, on the roof of an academic building. But I didn’t care anymore. I’d settled into a kind of sweet, I-don’t-give-any-fucks delirium. Nothing was more important than this piece and I was on a deadline.

I showed up to class when I was supposed to but I wasn’t really present. I was focused. Focused on finishing this piece that expressed everything I hadn’t said. Everything I didn’t share about my own complexities, coping mechanisms, and how freakin’ hard it was to be sick at 21. At the opening, so many people looked at me in awe. “I had no idea,” floated towards my ears too many times to count.

They put it in the paper, my sculpture as big as a car, and the objects that hung above it, representing everything I felt I couldn’t have. Of all the amazing art that was created in and for that building over the course of a semester, some made by capital P professional artists, it was my piece that made it in the Nashville Scene. I couldn’t believe it, but also I could. I had never felt so at home, at ease, in the flow.

When others in the class complained about the personalities running the program, I couldn’t understand why they cared. They gave us an entire building to play with! And money to make art! All we have to do to get two classes worth of credits is read some books and make art. Y’all, this is a gift!

Upon completion, I felt wave after wave of relief, like multiple orgasms, given without any expectation of reciprocity.  It was sweetness, peace, and the best kind of exhaustion. I felt spent. It wasn’t just the energy of successfully illuminating invisible illness that made it so magical, but also hanging out with other artists, healing from a breakup with the man I thought I’d marry, and learning how to be with early 20’s angst. It felt like God giving me a taste of what I was capable of.

I didn't even mind that we had to destroy the piece. It was necessary to get it out the door. I remember expressing gratitude to the six black trash bags that contained all of my creation. Thank you. Thank you for everything you gave me.

It felt like the best kind of breakup. I’ll remember it fondly but it was also okay if we never saw each other again.

 

"Laziness" + How to Find Joy in Discipline

"Laziness" + How to Find Joy in Discipline

This is a Facebook Live post I did about the connection between vision and discipline, specifically with how it relates to social media addiction and the job search process. 

The Power of Clarity

The Power of Clarity

Building on my recent post about the art of saying “no” I wanted to write about the power of being clear on what we want.

A lot of us, especially when we’re young, want to do and experience all the things. We want to say “yes” to job opportunities, adventures, and hang times with people we love. But doing it all can become exhausting and leave us feeling depleted. We look around and see others doing all the things and we wonder, what am I doing wrong?

The answer: You’re not doing anything wrong. You just haven’t yet mastered the art of discerning what’s worth your time and what might have to get shelved for a while. Successful people say no to a lot of things. And it's not because they're picky, it's because they're focused. 

But how does one get focused when there's so much you care about? 

You get clear on where to direct your energy. Clarity, it turns out, more than happiness or anything else, is actually the key to living an awesome life because it informs the way we use our energy.

Maria Nemeth, one of my mentors and author of Mastering Life’s Energies, says that there are six forms of energy: Money, Time, Physical Vitality, Creativity, Enjoyment, and Relationship.

When we’re not clear on what’s most important to us, we use our energy in unfocused ways. We throw it at whatever shiny object or urgent demand comes our way and that lack of focus makes us feel like things are hard and constricted. We begin to experience energy scarcity, which sounds like,

“There’s not enough time.”

“I don’t have enough money.”

“I’m exhausted.”

In contrast, when we’re clear on what we’re trying to accomplish and how we want to use our different forms of energy, we are clearer on the actions we need to take. Life feels easier and a whole lot more spacious.

And how do we get clear?

Working with a coach is a great option, and attending a workshop on visioning, values, or goal-setting can be very supportive and illuminating. (If you don’t already know this about me, I’m obsessed with visioning and regularly run visioning workshops because I LOVE helping folks get clear.)

But, even at a more basic level, you can start to get clearer on your next steps in life simply by asking yourself on a regular basis, what is it that I really want?  It sounds simple, I know, but how often do you ask yourself that, actually listen to the answer, and follow through on that answer?

Mmm hmm. Thought so. Not so much. 

When you ask, “Hey Self, what do I want, really, in regards to…?” you’ll likely hear  a lot of mind chatter about how whatever you want is “unrealistic” or “impossible” or “selfish.” That’s normal. Allow yourself to peek underneath all that. What’s hiding under there, furiously shining its light through the fog? Write about it. Talk about it, either to a person or a recording device. Listen to what you’re saying. What truths rise to the surface? What have you been talking about forever and then talking yourself out of?

I recommend practicing this with low stakes questions, like “what do you want for dinner?” When faced with such a question, start by taking a pause and asking yourself. Listen for and acknowledge the answer. Then act on it, or if someone else asked you, truthfully communicate your answer.

Each time you make a choice that’s authentic to you and aligned with your vision and values, you’re building up your own personal power. And the more you practice with the small stuff, the easier it will be to make bigger decisions like taking a job, moving across the country, or choosing to make a big energy investment of any kind.

Sometimes people will be disappointed. That’s also normal. My friend’s dad used to say that if everybody loves you, you’re doing something wrong. Nobody ever did anything worth writing home about by being a people pleaser 100% of the time. Your power can make other people uncomfortable and that’s good to be aware of but don’t let it stop you from living boldly.

I want to acknowledge that if you’re living with mental health challenges, this practice may not work for you, or you may need to do some more healing before it yields any results. Depression and anxiety create thick walls between us and our truths and if that's present for you, definitely seek healing support from a psychotherapist or counselor, and perhaps some neuroplasticity work like DNRS

How to Master the Art of Saying "No"

How to Master the Art of Saying "No"

I’ve been reflecting a lot on the art of saying “no.” It's a critical success skill yet so many people, myself included sometimes, really struggle with it. 

I work primarily with entrepreneurs, people with health challenges, and people in social change circles. A lot of these folks struggle to say “no” to social engagements, family support asks, volunteer opportunities, and the next grassroots action. Yet, to do anything big, like heal from a complex illness, start a business, write a book, or get a new job you love, requires a decent amount of regular, focused attention. It requires at least some amount of solo time and energy conservation too, things that can really seem out of reach when we’re always attending to the needs of others. I’ve seen even very enlightened people, who have done lots of self-growth work, really struggle with this.

If you’re like, “yeah,” sigh, “that’s me,” your first step is to get a sense of why you say “yes” more than you want to.

Some typical reasons include:

  • You don’t want to disappoint anyone
  • You prefer to avoid conflict
  • You feel like it’s selfish not to say yes

Next, you'll want to get crystal clear on what you actually want to say “yes” to. This is something a coach can support you with but you could start by making a list of three things that you really want to accomplish and three values that you want to put into practice in the next six months. Keep the list handy, like on your phone or in your wallet so you can refer to it easily. The list might look like:

To Accomplish:

  • Launch website
  • Make appointment with accountant 
  • Update resume

Values to practice:

  • Standing up for myself
  • Love of my family
  • Financial responsibility

This list can be a barometer for you to use when making decisions about how you’re spending your time and energy. You'll want to make the list relevant to the context in which you struggle the most to say “no.” If you really struggle with saying “no” at work, for example, have the list be all work related.

When someone asks you to do something, you can consult the list and ask yourself, “Will this support me in doing what’s on the list?” If not, you can feel a little better about saying no.

Then, when someone asks you to do something, practice pausing before you respond. If possible, consult your list. At the very least, take a deep break and ask yourself, “Do I really want to do this?”

Whenever possible, ask the asker if you can consider the request and get back to them. This is a helpful practice anyway because it can give you time to check your calendar, consult your list, and gather any other information that could help you make a more informed decision. Asking if you can get back to someone is an especially good practice for people who say “yes” a lot and end up bailing a lot. Over time this can drastically reduce the overwhelm and scheduling conflicts that lead to bailing. 


To discover what makes it uniquely difficult for you to say "no", so you can build a practice to say it more regularly, with ease, set up a strategy session with me here. 

A Job Seeker's Best Tool

A Job Seeker's Best Tool

Ah yes… the informational interview.

In my work as a career coach I find that there is a lot of mystery around this kind of meeting and fear about asking for them.

Allow me to demystify and clarify!

The purpose of an informational interview is to learn about a field or industry from someone who knows it firsthand. It can, and sometimes does, lead to a job offer, but the purpose of it is not to ask for a job.

Doing informational interviews is an important part of the information-gathering stage of a job search. It usually comes after some solid online, book, and media research and deciding that it is a field that you’d like to explore. You can save time by doing some soul searching or working with a professional to clarify your values and what’s important to you beforehand. This is part of what I do as a coach.

Either way, you’ll eventually need to learn more about the industry, or particular opportunities within the industry and informational interviews are the best way to do that.

Here are some awesome things you can get out of them:

Clarity. These interviews can help you get clear on whether or not you actually want to go into a particular field. At one point in time, I thought I might like to go into urban planning. After two informational interviews, I was very clear that it was not the field for me, which was great to know! Informational interviews can also help you clarify what skills and experience you need to have for certain roles, or what roles in the field would be a good fit for your skills and experience.

Connections. These conversations are a great way to connect to people in the field. Your interview subjects might be able to offer you a job, connect you to a potential employer, or otherwise help you build a network in the field. With each person you meet, ask them who else you should talk to, and ask about professional associations or meetups for people in the field if your have not found any on your own.

Practice. Informational interviews force you to talk about yourself and what you’re interested in, which you need to be good at for the real interviews you’ll do later.

Information. This is more obvious but an informational interview is a great way to learn about organization or industry culture, typical salaries, how competitive it is, common challenges, and everything else you cannot learn from the internet. If you’re looking to start a business, this is a great way to learn some entrepreneurial wisdom and save yourself some of learning the hard way.

How do you ask for an informational interview?

A lot of my clients and workshop participants assume that the people they want to talk to will not want to talk to them or will not have time. Some won’t but some will and they will be excited about it. Deep down, humans like to help other humans. It makes them feel good. Also, a lot of people like getting to talk about themselves and the work they’re passionate about it and want to support others in getting into the field.

It’s always best if you can get an introduction from someone you know. E-introductions are great. That’s when the person you know emails you and cc’s the other person to ask for a meeting on your behalf. If you’re at an event, an in-person intro is great too. Then you can exchange information and set up a follow-up conversation.

Also, you don’t always need to meet with someone in person to have a great conversation and some people don’t have time for that. You might offer to take them out for coffee but say that if a short phone conversation is more convenient, you’d love that too.

Start by making a list of everyone you know who might know anything about the field you’re interested in. Identify the most likely to know folks and contact them first. If you’re not sure where to start, consider posting on social media with something like, “Who do I know who works in finance or knows people in finance?” That could elicit a valuable response and doesn’t necessarily imply that you’re job hunting or exploring your options, in case you are keeping that under wraps with your current employer.

If you can’t get introduced to someone, reaching out via phone, email, or LinkedIn is worth doing. Be sure to follow up at least once. You’re not going to be a pest. People are busy and they might appreciate the nudge.

To get support for your job transition, check out my coaching group Operation Dream Job.

What's (self) love got to do with it?

What's (self) love got to do with it?

My clients with health challenges have heard me say again and again that our body is our greatest teacher.

My body’s most persistent lesson is that the path to healing involves loving myself fiercely, and loving all of myself, even the parts I’d rather ignore, like that weird white hair that grows out of my cheek, or the way I’ve mistreated people I love.

I have made huge strides in my healing and I credit that with the progress I have made in the self-love department. With a lot of therapy, coaching, and energy healing support, I love myself a whole lot more than I used to. Still, my body continues to push me to love more deeply and fully. Everytime I reach a milestone in my healing and think, “I must be nearly there,” I see that there’s another horizon to reach, one that requires more love, more attention, more patience, and more acceptance.

Sometimes my reaction is so whiny. Really? But I already love you so much body. Why are you so needy? Believe me, that doesn’t help.

I suspect my body will continue to push me until there are no shadows or hurt parts left. And that makes sense. When we’re feeling guilt, shame, or beating ourselves up in any way, we tend to deny ourselves what we need, on purpose, or because we’re too distracted by our own drama. Conversely, when we love ourselves fully and treat ourselves as we would our most favorite person in the world, it’s a lot easier for healing to happen, because we actually give ourselves what we need. Healing requires us to be our own beloved.

While I have been mostly free of Lyme symptoms since August, my body has found other ways to remind me that there’s more work to be done. Most recently, I had some really profound emotional and physical reactions to bodywork. I had not gotten a massage in awhile. I was saving my resources for other healing modalities, but I had the opportunity to do some trades and jumped right on it.  One session was visceral manipulation, which I highly recommend to anyone with digestive challenges. It was the only thing that’s ever made my gallbladder pain go away. It also...made me cry for two days. And that was the second time that happened. I woke up and cried two days in a row after a regular massage a month earlier. A couple weeks later, a different bodywork session landed me in bed the following day with a searing migraine. In each instance, I had to just accept that my body was shedding something and rest. With the crying, I suspect it was just a big emotional release, probably of lingering grief. Us spoonies tend to acquire some of that after years of having to live differently from most humans.  

When I wake up crying, my initial reaction is to worry that I’m getting depressed, that I need to seek help, call my psychologist friends, and solve the problem right away. That tizzy I put myself in makes the whole thing worse. I become “hot mess” personified. But once I settle into it and accept that my body needs me to cry and that it won’t be permanent, it resolves itself pretty quickly. In these moments I tell my body that I love it. I ask what it wants and I do my best to deliver.

I tell my body I love it a lot and in general I’ve cultivated a very loving relationship with it. I am able to love it even when it’s causing me pain, or making me feel bloated and pizza-faced. It’s been harder to love my failures. It feels embarrassing even to write about but my biggest hang up is around not being successful – in my business, in healing, and in relationships. Even though I KNOW that no one crushes it 100% of the time, when things don’t go well, or I mess up, or things take way longer than expected, I beat myself up, and pretty brutally sometimes. My friend Heather is good at pulling me out of it. She’ll ask, “why are you being so mean to my friend Noelle right now?”

In addition to her reflection, it’s been useful to learn through coaching that when I’m passing judgment on myself, it’s not coming from my inner wisdom. Instead, it’s a monkey mind conversation.  

“Monkey mind” is a Buddhist term for that inner dialogue we all have that endlessly bounces between doubt and worry, and shares it’s unsolicited critical opinion of everything. I heard another coach call it “you inner evil meanie.” It’s probably in the amygdala, the part of the brain that gives us our fight or flight response. The great thing about Monkey Mind is it’s not the truth. It can contain grains of the truth, but it’s not the end all be all, though it would like us to think it is. When we can see that we’re passing judgment on ourselves and that it’s just Monkey Mind, we can come back to what’s actually true. For example, yes, you could have handled that meeting better but you were also recovering from the flu and even Justin Timberlake’s charming self would have struggled.

When we can see Monkey Mind for what it is in the moment, not the truth, then we can choose to shift our attention back to loving ourselves. It’s a practice and something we need to choose again and again, kind of like meditation. You focus on the breath. Your mind wanders. You notice your mind is wandering and you come back to the breath. You don’t get better at meditating, you get better at noticing when you’re not doing it.

Over time, as we master the art of seeing Monkey Mind, we can get really good at coming back to loving ourselves. It frees up so much energy for healing!

If you want to up your self-love game, Uncustomary has some great resources for practicing self-love in small ways every day.

If you see that you would love some hands-on support with recognizing Monkey Mind and learning tools to help you love the poop out our yourself, let’s chat!

A Spoonie's Annual Report

A Spoonie's Annual Report

"Spoonie," if you’re not familiar, is a moniker for folks with chronic pain, illness, or mental illness, who have more limited energy than the average person.

2017 was my seventeenth year being a spoonie. In many ways, it was one of my healthiest years, which was a blessing. I also saw this year that I might have a shot of being pain and disease-free, a gift that many spoonies do not receive.

2017 was also my first year coaching full time. I quit my part-time job, coaching college students, in February. I was able to make the transition, and pay for some medical expenses later in the year, with financial support from my family. I initially felt a lot of shame about asking and accepting that support – like A LOT of shame – even though they were happy to help.

I asked because I’d cleaned out my savings paying for medicine and was operating at 40-60% of the average 32 year old’s energetic capacity. I saw that coaching full time would both help me make more money and spend more time healing but I didn't have the bridge to get there. 

Given what I could produce in the limited time I had on top of my part-time job, it could have taken me years to make the transition to coaching full-time. Even though that was just the truth, I kept saying to myself, “I have a degree and lots of privilege. I can work hard. I should be able to make this happen on my own.” And being hard on myself like this didn't make any of it easier. 

I see this shame + being hard on the self combo in a lot in my clients too. I think we get swept up in the American rugged individualism narrative and feel like failures when we can't be "successful" on our own, even when we're facing tremendous obstacles that no one could overcome solo. 

I eventually found some compassion for myself and, after a lot of coaching, let myself accept the support and follow my dream. I also realized that it’s not uncommon, across cultures, for families to support each other in business ventures and health crises when they can. It's what you do when you love someone and have resources to share.

I wanted to share openly my experience with support, and what I was able to accomplish this year as a result, in case it’s supportive for other folks. Being a business owner with a chronic illness IS challenging. Being an entrepreneur on its own is challenging, particularly the unstable income part. When you throw limited energy, flare-ups, and lots of doctor’s appointments into the mix, it can be a pretty stressful affair. That said, there are huge upsides, namely having control of your schedule and being able to take naps whenever it’s called for. I wrote about the ups and downs of my experience earlier this year in a post called Adventures in Spooniepreneurship.

Making spoonieprenuership work requires mastering the art of conserving energy and asking for and receiving a lot of support. For most of 2017, I didn’t really see a lot of people. I was saving energy (spoons) for my coaching business. I’m grateful for the friends who made it easy for me, who came and cooked for me, took me out to dinner, or were willing to go on walks or yoga dates. Eventually, I was able to branch out and have more fun, which was crucial for my sanity. I did, as you’ll see below, still get to go on some sweet adventures. There were some I didn’t make it to, and I feel okay about that. Sometimes rest is best.

Going over my personal data points for the last year helped me see clearly what I DID accomplish this year. It helped me shift my mindset in a productive way. I had previously been feeling like a failure, focusing my attention on all the things I didn’t do. I definitely set some goals last year that were really unrealistic, i.e. tripling my income and finishing a book draft. Because trying to do that on top of starting a business makes sense?!? I live and learn! It was a great reminder that new projects always, always take way more energy than we anticipate. 

When I look at these numbers I think, for year one of a new business, in a year that included six weeks of mold-related homelessness and an unexpected move across the state, I feel pretty stoked about this.

Spoonies can get sh*t done. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Noelle’s 2017 by the Numbers:

Business

Total clients: 36

Coaching hours: 201

Coaching groups launched: 5

Online workshops: 8

In-person workshops and speaking gigs: 6

Yoga classes taught and subbed: 21

Coaching/yoga/healing/marketing workshops attended: 10

Videos posted: 21

Blog posts published: 26

Pieces in other places: 4

Total income: > $30,000

 

Health

Doctors appointments: 15

Ondamed treatments: 15

Acupuncture appointments: 14

Chiropractic appointments: 33

Intuitive healing sessions: 20 (This is estimated as many were informal)

Yoga classes attended: too many to count

 

Joy

Voice lessons: 10

Camping Trips: 3

Art Museums Visited: 3

Pirate Museums Visited: 1

Plays seen: 5

Trips to see old friends out of state: 2

Friends visited me from out of state: 2

(Small) Mountains Climbed: 2

Potato varieties grown for the first time: 3

Expanding Enrollment for the Fight Against White Supremacy

Expanding Enrollment for the Fight Against White Supremacy

I wonder what Dr. King have to say about the state of our country today? I imagine he’d note how many more white people are now aware of the hatred that is still alive and well in our country. While there is still much, much work to be done, there are seemingly many more people interested in doing that work. And that’s a good thing, right?

As anyone who’s failed to keep a new year’s resolution knows, desire doesn’t always translate into action. But that lack of action isn’t always a result of ignorance or laziness as many assume. I have seen in my work as a coach that more often people are overwhelmed and unsure, paralyzed by not knowing how to contribute. Some folks truly don’t know what to do. Others don’t feel like they fit the mold of a typical activist, or don’t have time to volunteer for an organized campaign because of work and family obligations, or they simply can’t physically participate the way others can. I’ve talked to so many sick and disabled folks who want to be marching in the streets and haven’t figured out what they can do from home. All these people are deeply saddened and worried about their seeming inability to help with one of the most important challenges of our time.

Meanwhile, others work themselves to death. The recent passing of Erica Garner, daughter of Eric Garner who was killed by police in Staten Island in 2004, has had me thinking about how we can better support our most vulnerable activists. The 27-year-old mother of two had been fiercely campaigning against police brutality since her father’s death when she died from a heart attack caused by an asthma attack. We don’t know exactly what contributed to Erica’s health challenges but we know that health outcomes in African-American communities are the worst of any racial group in America. Erica was a perfect example of how often the most oppressed among us disproportionately shoulder the heaviest burden of reversing that oppression.

In the organizational side of the social change community, there has been a growing shift towards partnering with and supporting these most vulnerable front-line activists. That is necessary and good but activists need more than coalition partners. Who is feeding them, babysitting their kids, coaching them to delegate more, and encouraging them to rest because we want them in the movement for the long haul?

Everyone and their mom wants to start a non-profit, right? I’d love to see one that connects the up-until-now paralyzed would-be activists with existing front-line activists in their area. If you’ve ever been a burnt out activist yourself, you know how freaking amazing it would be if one of your neighbors texted to say, “Hey, I’m making vegetarian chili and cornbread. Can I bring you some?”

pie and white supremacy.png

Providing care is a vital role in the movement. Think of all the families who housed and cooked for civil rights marchers. While they may not have joined in the streets, they were serious heroes too. The work would not have happened without them. Now that many historic community-building institutions have crumbled and we’re all glued to our phones, we need to find new ways to connect natural caregivers to frontliners.

If we are going to create the deep and diverse relationships needed to truly dismantle white supremacy in this country, we must be willing to take care of one another. We, white activists, talk about the need to speak up, educated, and hold accountable our own neighbors, friends, and family members. Yes, we do. And, we need to start asking our neighbors and activist friends, especially the POC, if we can bring them a pie, watch their kiddos, or otherwise support them. A pie wouldn't have saved Erica Garner, but if we were all supporting each other in deeper ways, we may get to keep warriors like her around for longer in the future.

Dr. King said, “Life’s most urgent and persistent question is, What are you doing for others?” Let’s remember that care, while undervalued by capitalism, is the lifeblood of our revolutions.

Be Your Own Healer

Be Your Own Healer

As anyone with a complex, poorly understood illness can tell you, there’s a lot more to managing your health than doing what the doctor suggests. We usually find our way to complementary or alternative therapies that help us feel better and we learn, sometimes the hard way, how to eat right, manage our energy, and life-hack our way to the best reality we can create for ourselves. Living well, and healing is so much more than just taking care of the body.

You’ve probably seen the phrases “mind, body, spirit” or “mind-body connection” tossed around, but what does that really mean? It’s the ancient understanding that these three integral parts of us are intimately connected. Emotional pain can cause physical pain, physical pain can cause emotional pain, spiritual distress can cause emotional distress, etc. Every part of us is connected.

And, while our mainstream medical establishment acknowledges this connection, as evidenced by the increasing number of yoga and meditation programs in hospitals, most of the instruction we get from our doctors is strictly body-focused and often limited to medications and physical therapy.

In hanging out with so many people over the years with Lyme and other so-called “chronic” conditions, I’ve observed that the big difference between people who recover and the people who stay sick is always this mind, body, spirit link. Folks can do all the therapies and take all the medicines, but if they aren’t also nourishing their mind and spirit, they don’t fully recover. In the Lyme world, this looks like people who are sick for decades, or continue to get well but relapse over and over. It’s really important to address mind, body, and spirit with equal intention. Just as I would never suggest that someone focus only on the body, I would never suggest that someone strictly try and meditate their pain away either.

Why “so-called ‘chronic’ illness?” After supporting so many folks with health challenges, I believe strongly that many illnesses become and stay chronic precisely because people are not addressing all three parts – mind, body, spirit – with equal care and attention.

If you’re not addressing all three right now, that’s okay! It’s not like we learn how to do that in school, and so many of us grow up without spiritual nurturing, even if we grew up with a religious tradition. Also, you can start healing these other parts of your at any time. It doesn’t have to be complicated or require any money either. Simply taking more conscious deep breaths every day could change your life.

The late author and metaphysical healer Louise Hay popularized the spelling “dis-ease,” to illustrate that the cause of illness is a disruption to our natural state of ease. The Latin prefix “dis-” means “apart” or “away.” Illness happens when we get away from our body, mind, and spirit’s natural way of being, usually because of chronic stress or trauma that weakens the body’s natural healing abilities. The trauma can be emotional, physical, or psychological. And the physical cause could be something like a viral or bacterial infection.

I’ve found in my work that most people with chronic conditions have experienced multiple kinds of trauma, i.e. family abuse, multiple concussions, and grief over the loss of a loved one. On top of that, being sick for a long time is, in itself, traumatic, even if you don’t experience medical trauma.

And here’s the thing, you can’t heal trauma with a drug. You might be able to ameliorate the symptoms but the underlying trauma remains and can only be healed by nurturing the mind and spirit. This is where you have to learn to be your own healer.

I know. You just want someone else to make it all better. We all do. But that’s just not how it works, Beautiful. You may want to have teachers, healers, and mentors to support you along the way, but ultimately you are the one who knows you best.

So where to start? I’m actually writing a book about this (stay tuned!) but here are my initial recommendations:

Set the table for healing. Develop some daily practices that reduce stress and calm your nervous system. I recommend that everyone have a mindfulness practice, even if it’s 10 minutes of meditation a day, done in bed. Insight Timer is an incredible resource for starting a practice. Having a regular gratitude practice will begin to shift your mindset from scarcity towards abundance, which naturally reduces stress. Notice when you’re being hard on yourself or stuck in a worry loop. It’s super normal to be stressed and scared when you’re sick but the good news is you can shift your attention. Activist and healer Adrienne Maree Brown says, “what you pay attention to grows.” Focus your attention on the things that serve you.

Learn about spiritual practices and know that they don’t have to be religious. Spirituality, at its core, is about connection – to the divine, but also to the earth and other humans. It might be that sitting by the window and watching the birds helps you feel connected. That’s great. You might just set the intention to explore your spirituality and see what happens. Make stuff up. Create your own rituals. Try out existing spiritual practices. There’s no right way to feed your spirit.

Be curious and explore different avenues for healing support. If you’ve never seen a therapist or a counselor, that might be a great place to start, especially if your health insurance covers it. Know that not all mental health professionals are the same and it may take some time trial and error before you find someone who is a good fit for you. It’s ideal if you can find someone who is literate in your condition(s) and experience. Like, if you’re trans, definitely look for someone who isn’t going to misgender you constantly. If the idea of talking about your experience isn’t appealing, check out yoga therapy. It’s a wonderful healing modality that gets you out of your brain and into your body.

I also recommend exploring some of the often-called “woo woo” modalities to see if they speak to you. I’ve seen even super science-based folks get deep into the woo in the name of healing. You might explore reiki, energy healing, astrology, shamanic journeying, and plant-spirit medicine.

If you don’t have the budget to explore healing modalities outside of allopathic medicine right now, look for free opportunities. A lot of practitioners offer free healing sessions and workshops. They also get that being sick is expensive so ask about sliding scale pricing, or work-trade opportunities if your energy will allow for that. I also ran a video series called Healcast in which I interviewed different holistic practitioners about their work so you can learn the basics of some popular healing modalities like reiki, energy healing, acupuncture, and yoga therapy.

Play. Dance, even if it’s a finger dance. Talk to yourself. Explore and strengthen your intuition by making guesses about things that are verifiable, i.e. how many letters will be in the mailbox today? Place your hands where it hurts and imagine guiding healing energy into the space. See what happens. Be silly and look for hilarity everywhere.Laugh as much as possible. 

For support with any of the above, get in touch! Self-healing is my favorite topic!
 

Setting Goals You Will Score

Setting Goals You Will Score

You’ve probably heard the statistic that 80% of people who set New Year’s resolutions fail to stick to them after six weeks. Why is that?

It turns out it’s all about joy.

Most people set resolutions around things they “should” do rather than things they want to do. Recent research showed that enjoyment was the major factor in whether or not people did what they said they would do.

Let’s get rid of the “shoulds.” No one ever lived an incredible, fulfilling life by choosing again and again to do only what they “should” do. I’m not saying you can bypass everything that feels hard or unpleasant, but there might be a way to wrap it in something that brings you joy. More on that in a moment.

But what is a “resolution” anyway?

The dictionary defines it as “a firm decision to do or not to do something.” A decision, it turns out, is not an action. For many of us, simply deciding to do something doesn’t mean we will. I suggest that we get rid of New Years resolutions in favor of goals.

“Goal” is defined as “a desired result.” It’s so much more specific and actionable than a decision. Setting a goal doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll score it, but it can help you focus your energy and attention. The goal in itself defines success and gives you something to work towards.

Here is an example of the difference between a resolution and a goal.

  • Health-related resolution: I will go running three times a week in 2018.
  • Health-related goal: I complete a 10k race by April 15, 2018.

The desired result of both is to get fit and establish a running routine but isn’t the second one so much more exciting and motivating? To score that goal, you will have to run regularly. You will know you’ve been successful when you complete the race. After you complete the race, you can celebrate and set a new goal to keep yourself running.

So when you look at your 2018, instead of asking “what will I do?” you might ask, “what are the results I am willing to produce?”

To hone your goal-setting skills and get ready to produce some juicy results this year, come to my workshop on 1/17, Your Ultimate 2018.