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Ready, Set, Go!

ready set go

On November 19, 2015 I got laid off from my job.  I had been with my company for almost 9 years and over that time I had the opportunity to take on so many wonderful challenges and I grew more than I could have imagined when I first started.  Given the market in Calgary in 2015 I wasn’t overly surprised when it happened, I had been feeling anxious for months.

However I was shocked, what was so shocking was how lost I felt when I walked out of the building.  I didn’t know where to go, who to call, what to do.  I honestly felt like a ghost of myself with no direction.  I did the only thing I could think to do, I went to yoga.

As I sat in silence waiting for my class to start, I could sense an emptiness inside myself.  I couldn’t shake it during the class, it was just there, an empty feeling.  Over the next few days it would come and go.  So would emotions like sadness, fear, euphoria and panic.  As the reality of the situation started to settle in I realized what the emptiness was, it was where my identify had been.

Like so many people I had wrapped who I was as a person with how I was doing in my career.  Getting laid off and being unemployed stripped that away and my ego was having a tough time reconciling who I was now.  Where was my validation going to come from now?  Am I still valuable?  I really had to sit and think “Who am I?

There are three things I am passionate about, the first thing is writing.  I love writing, it’s my way of understanding myself and the world around me.  The second thing I am passionate about is running.  It’s not an overstatement to say that running has saved my life and I’m grateful to be able to put on my shoes and run.

But the thing in my life that I am the most passionate about is Coaching.  Any hour I spend in a coaching conversation is the best hour of that day.  Seeing a person shift through the power of honest, direct and authentic conversation is a gift.  I truly feel so fortunate to have found Coaching as a profession.  To me it’s more than a career choice, it’s a calling.  It’s my calling.

I know that’s what I’m meant to do.  I’ve made the declaration that I’m never going to be a salary employee ever again.  I am going to work for myself and I want to spend all of my time devoted to the art of coaching.  I’m not sure exactly how that looks but I’m excited to find out!

jb

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That’s what tree said!

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Be your true self and that’s enough…  That’s the message I got from a small stand of Birch trees in the mountains of Colorado on the last day of my Coach Training.

Something tells me I should explain a bit more. :)

Since October 2013 I have been learning to be a personal/leadership coach through the Newfield Network.  I did part one (Foundations for Personal Leadership) of the training @ the University of Calgary but decided to do part two (The Art & Practice of Ontological Coaching – TAPOC) just outside of Colorado Springs at a Leadership Development retreat called The Nature Place. Ontological Coaching is a holistic and effective way to help people discover all that is within themselves and open their view to new ideas and possibilities.

Both Foundations and TAPOC have been transformative experiences and I’ve met some of the most incredible people along the way.  TAPOC was especially meaningful as I spent 5 days truly immersed in the work of learning to be a coach.  My classmates were some of the most generous,compassionate and caring people I’ve ever known.  I’m certain I will know them for a very long time.  The Newfield approach of learning is experiential, we don’t just learn how to coach we experience coaching as both coachee and coach.  We practice on each other using real breakdowns and genuine conversation.  Coaching is to be in service to another person and we learned the humility and compassion required to be in service to our coachee’s.  I believe that this style of coaching is more than a profession, it’s a calling.

The Newfield mission sums up the approach to this work:

Julio Olalla, Founder Newfield Network

Our mission is to generate and nurture learning spaces designed to allow the emergence of a new conception and experience of knowing where we learn to live a good life as we contribute to build a socially just, environmentally sustainable and spiritually fulfilling world.

I am very proud to be a member of the Newfield community and I’m so proud of all the work my classmates did to help me prepare for the journey ahead.  They gave of themselves and allowed me to open up in ways I didn’t think I could.  For that I am so grateful.

The amazing room we worked in @ The Nature Place.  So inspiring!
The amazing room we worked in @ The Nature Place. So inspiring!

The next step is to get out there and actually coach!  I would like to thank my Coachee Guinea pigs in advance :)

Oh right I forgot to explain the tree thing!  On the last day of the conference Julio talked about being open to different voices when it comes to coaching, our learning can come from so many places, he asked us to go out to the forest and find a tree that appealed to us and ask it one question.  The question was “What are the things I can do immediately to create happier and deeper relationships?”  I walked into the forest and saw an evergreen tree that looked nice, as I approached it the wind came through and made the leaves rustle on a small stand of Birch trees and that caught my attention so I went and stood in the middle of them instead.  I closed my eyes and asked my questions, the answer came through so clearly it was almost overwhelming!

Be your true self and that’s enough…

Pretty smart trees

jb

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Shhhhh….

Shhhh

Well this is my last post for a couple of weeks… I leave tomorrow for a Vipassana Meditation retreat that is done in total silence.  Meditation has become a very important part of my life.  Growing up I struggled with anxiety and did have periods where I was medicated.  I never liked the side effects and always wanted an option to help deal with my anxiety.

First I discovered running, something about the solitude of running has always brought me peace and a feeling of calm.  Exercise in general is great for calming feelings of anxiousness.

When I first tried meditating it didn’t go that well.  After 20 minutes I had literally no enlightenment and I didn’t know what the meaning of life was and to top it all off my foot fell asleep.  It was a couple of years before I tried again.  This time I went to a course with Becky that was amazing.  It taught the Sudarshan Kriya that was developed by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.  It involves very precise breathing techniques to put a person into a very deep meditative state.  This was truly transformative for me.  In fact it was during this program that I had the epiphany about coaching as a profession.  Since taking this course meditation is an (almost) daily practice for me.

Anywho back to the 11 day retreat I’m going to.  It is a meditation practice called Vipassana which is taught worldwide in over 150 centres.  I’ll be taking the program in Merritt BC.  For more on Vipassana check out this site http://www.surabhi.dhamma.org/.

I’m very excited/nervous about this program.  For 10 days there is no talking, no reading, no journaling, no exercise, no iphone, no music and no eye contact with other participants.  I will be sitting in meditation for 12 hours a day.  The daily timetable is below.

I’m thinking about this as a reboot, in the old days you had to defrag your computer all the time to reorganize the systems so they ran efficiently.  Well I’m going to defrag my mind, body and spirit over the next 2 weeks.

I will be sure to let all of my readers (Hi Mom) know how it goes when I get back on June 9th.

Wish me luck and namaste,

jb

THE COURSE TIMETABLE

The following timetable for the course has been designed to maintain the continuity of practice. For best results students are advised to follow it as closely as possible.

 

4:00 am Morning wake-up bell
4:30-6:30 am Meditate in the hall or in your room
6:30-8:00 am Breakfast break
8:00-9:00 am Group meditation in the hall
9:00-11:00 am Meditate in the hall or in your room according to the teacher’s instructions
11:00-12:00 noon Lunch break
12noon-1:00 pm Rest and interviews with the teacher
1:00-2:30 pm Meditate in the hall or in your room
2:30-3:30 pm Group meditation in the hall
3:30-5:00 pm Meditate in the hall or in your own room according to the teacher’s instructions
5:00-6:00 pm Tea break
6:00-7:00 pm Group meditation in the hall
7:00-8:15 pm Teacher’s Discourse in the hall
8:15-9:00 pm Group meditation in the hall
9:00-9:30 pm Question time in the hall
9:30 pm Retire to your own room–Lights out

 

 

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My Journey

Journey

Okay that’s maybe not the best image of My Specific Journey… but I do love the song ‘Don’t Stop Believin’ :)

Alright enough monkey business…  I’ve been having some really great conversations lately with some really interesting people.

As I move through this process of learning to be an Ontological Coach I have been recruiting potential ‘Coachees’ to volunteer for the final part of my training.  So far the people who are interested are amazing to talk to.  They are smart, interesting, intuitive people who I can learn so much from.  I’m so grateful that they would even consider being a part of this process with me.  I still have a couple of months before I will actually do any real coaching but the conversations so far have been so energizing.

I know in my heart this is how I want to spend my time.  Building genuine connections with people who are passionate about growth and want to fully step into who they truly are.  The holistic approach to these conversations is why they they have the power to be so transformative.  Discussing the power of language as a tool for action, the influence of moods and emotions and how they are manifested in our physical self is rich and diverse terrain for discovery.

I already have the opportunity in my day job to build one on one connections with new people all the time, but I’m a Recruiter so there is a defined business motive to these meetings.  This means there is a limitation to how deep a conversation can go.  I’m very fortunate to have the opportunities I do and I’m grateful to those around me for allowing me to explore this new path.

I’m so excited to be a coach!

I was speaking with someone the other day and we were discussing that since I don’t have kids I will forfeit the experience of helping a person grow and develop into a good person.  This experience is unique to parents.  However she pointed out that a good coach does exactly that, a coach can help clear away the clutter and enable a person to step into who they truly are.  This was an amazing moment for me to consider that.

For me the idea of being a coach is to be in service to other people.  To see the light in another person and help them see it in themselves feels like important work.  This is my journey and I will work hard and strive to make the world a better place one conversation at a time.

jb

And because I used the picture…

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I’m Overweight

BMI

Well let me clarify that a bit. My Body Mass Index (BMI) says I’m overweight based on my height and weight.  It should be 25 or lower but it’s still a bit outside that range, by 0.5 to be exact.  I have had a goal to weigh 160lbs for about 4 years. 160lbs is at about the 75% of the healthy range of BMI or 23.0, If I want to be really healthy I need to weigh 150lbs!

Let me back up a bit. In 2010 I weighed 206 lbs and I felt really bad. I had just turned 36 and I wasn’t happy with how I looked and felt. Becky and I hit nutritional ‘rock bottom’ on a trip to Las Vegas. The kinds of food we were eating, the portions and the size of a lot of the people around us was overwhelming. We decided it was time for a change. Over the course of the next 6-8 months we each lost about 40lbs and we did that using this crazy technique called Moderation :) We made smart food choices and put an emphasis on regular exercise. I became a pretty avid runner.

The least I ever weighed was 162lbs and that was very fleeting, I settled around 170 for the next couple of years. During the course of a pretty stressful year I gained back some of the weight. I was 186lbs in September 2013. I had gained back half of the weight I originally lost and again I felt really bad about myself and vowed to make a change. This time I used my BMI as my gauge of success, and success would be 160lbs.

I go to the gym 5 times a week before work. I really enjoy my routine, I feel so awake and ready to go when I get to work. Physically I can easily say I’m in the best shape of my life, I weight 172lbs.

Still too heavy, my BMI says I gotta lose more weight. I actually started thinking that if I want to lose those pesky 12lbs I will have to stop lifting weights and up my cardio… also it might be time to try a cleanse or a more formal diet. OKay now I can feel I’m moving into a bit more obsessive type thinking. One moment I’m feeling so good physically and feeling good with how I look in a t shirt and the next I’m considering undoing the very activities that helped me so I can reach a goal that came from my BMI.

On e day I was clicking around Netflix and found a documentary called ‘America The Beautiful 2‘. I had seen the cover a million times but never checked it out. Well it’s a documentary about BMI and how BMI is BS! The argument being that BMI does not measure health. In fact it was never meant to be a measure of health. It was developed to measure the average sizes of large populations. Somewhere along the way BMI has become the defacto measure of how healthy a person it. Check out how many BMI calculators there are on the iTunes App Store.

In 1999 the BMI for what is considered healthy was lowered from 28 to 25.  This was in response to what “experts” felt was an impending obesity crisis.  Coincidentally a couple of these experts also sat on the Board of Directors for Weight Watchers… no conflict of interest there.

BMI is not an indication of health, this was my mistake all along.  Had I continued focusing on BMI as the true guide for my health I could very likely have developed an eating disorder or some other harmful habits to help me hit that goal.  The number is so arbitrary and it’s insidious because it is presented as a true measure of health.

I’m so grateful that I found this Documentary when I did, I think Becky was grateful too, she could tell I was slipping into more obsessive behavior, moderation wasn’t enough, now I needed something more immediate.  I’m not sure exactly what percentage of my time was spent thinking about my weight but it was a lot.  I wasn’t focused on my health anymore, just a number.  It’s kind of ironic that the weight lifted off of my shoulders by not caring about BMI is so much more then the 12lbs my BMI made me feel I needed to lose to be “Healthy”.

Would I like to look like a UFC fighter with 3% body fat?  Yes for that one week a year I’m in Mexico with no shirt on I think 3% body fat would be amazing.  However for me that lifestyle needed to maintain that is not realistic.  I want to feel good in my own skin and above all I want to have a long and HEALTHY life.  That’s a bit different that leading a thin life.

I like the 80/20 rule.  80% good healthy lifestyle choices and 20% Cheezies ;)

jb

 

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So I finally tried a Sensory Deprivation Tank

Homer Tank

I’ve been hearing a lot lately about Flotation Tanks or Sensory Deprivation chambers.  When I heard that Prema Sai had one I knew I had to try it!

Here is the description from Prema Sai’s website:

“Flotation therapy involves immersing yourself in a tank of shallow water that is saturated with an Epsom-salt solution, giving it the “Dead Sea effect”, allowing you to experience a sense of weightlessness. The sensation allows you to feel like you are floating in space. If you choose to utilize ear plugs you will be able to experience full sensory deprivation, at which point every muscle in your body will relax.”

It was a little strange when you first get in the tank, you float so easily it’s very easy to completely relax.  One trick I often use to meditate is to concentrate on my breathing, normally within a few minutes my mind is feeling clear and my thoughts are more random and slower.  I tried this in the tank and it worked great.  It wasn’t long before I really lost track of time and in some ways space as well.  Occasionally i would feel like I was slowly moving in a circle, which isn’t actually possible given the size of the the tank.  Sometimes the tank felt like it was closing in on me and other moments it felt vast.  I had a tough time feeling how submerged I was and believe it or not there were several times I couldn’t tell if my eyes were open or closed.

There was a real serene feeling being in the tank, it wasn’t boring, but it wasn’t exciting either.  It was just a feeling of being, anyone who meditates could relate to the feeling.  When the 60 minutes was done I felt so relaxed and so rested.  It was very cool experience and one I will certainly do again.

jb

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Cogito Ergo Sum Inked

I think most people are familiar with the latin phrase ‘Cogito Ergo Sum’ which means ‘I Think Therefore I Am’.  It’s from Rene Descartes ‘Discourse on Method’ from 1637.

What very few people would know is that it was also my 1st tattoo.  I got it when I was 16 and had just discovered Albert Camus, Jean Paul Sartre and of course Descartes.  In one fragile year of intellectual discovery I effectively shut down my emotional self and discarded any possibility of a spiritual life.  I reasoned that all I needed was to trust in myself and my logic and if I couldn’t see it, it wasn’t real.  I became one of those very annoying “Bullet Point Atheists”, my arguments were literally only skin deep.

It didn’t take long before I realized that I didn’t have the knowledge to back up my arrogance and I stopped showing people my tattoo.  I felt like a fraud to have that phrase on my arm when I didn’t even really understand what it meant.  The idea of what it represented was what I was attracted to.  I didn’t want to acknowledge my emotional side (too painful) and as far as spirituality went, I felt truly abandoned by any kind of God.  That only left logic and reason.

My teen years were challenging,  it sucks to be a teenager no matter who you are but I don’t think I had the tools to handle the challenges that came up.  My feelings were dark and depressive during that time, I know I retreated into a world of reason & knowledge, not to learn but to hide.  I couldn’t handle the loneliness of those years and I reacted to the environment I was in by shutting out anything that could hurt me.

For 13 years that tattoo was a real regret on my part.  Whenever anyone saw it I would pray they didn’t know what it meant, I would always make up random meanings for it to change the conversation.  I was so embarrassed of what it represented, while I felt like a fraud when I was younger, I felt like an pretentious idiot as I as got older.  I realized that trying to live in just one domain (mind) for so long was limiting my growth and joy.  If I wanted to really engage with the world I needed to be comfortable in my own skin, and that meant learning to be comfortable with my emotions.  It also meant I had to get that damn tattoo covered!

Well the tattoo is long gone, I had it covered by a Japanese pagoda 10 years ago.  It took a while to step into my emotional self and feel okay, it’s a work in progress, but the work is really satisfying.  In the last 18 months I have really found my spiritual side.  Meditation has become a very important part of my life.  Through meditation I’m feeling the connections all around me and it’s amazing.

I think about that 16 year old kid who got a dumb tattoo to show the world he didn’t need to be vulnerable or to be protected.  I used to feel sorry for him but I don’t feel like that anymore, I’m proud of him.  That tattoo was his shield and I‘m proud that he did what he had to do and he made it through.

jb

 

 

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Remember to Breathe

Okay I promise this is the last post inspired by a TV commercial… okay I can’t truly commit to that :)

Travel Alberta has a couple of great commercials with the tag line “Remember to Breathe”. The imagery coupled with the amazing song “Here we go” by Wil actually relaxes me every time I see it. I noticed that my breathing actually slows down to match the emotional rhythm of the ad.

Until about a year ago I pretty much never remembered to breathe, don’t get me wrong I was breathing but I wasn’t consciously aware of my breathing. The moment I began to be more mindful of my breathing everything changed. Suddenly I had a conscious way to check in on my emotional state.

Think about how you breathe when you’re angry or when you’re happy or what about when you’re sad or if you are feeling tenderness towards another person. Each of those emotions has a very distinct breathing pattern. If you can learn to recognize the patterns, then you can also learn to shift in and out of different emotions just by changing how you breathe.

Everyone knows that taking a deep breath will help calm you down if you are upset. What do you think would happen if you took five deep breaths? Try it right now, I’ll Wait.

1           2           3           4           5

I have a good friend named Laura who has taught me a lot about mindfulness, specifically about how being mindful leads to both peace and feeling present. When I was a kid the word present meant one thing… GIFTS! Now as an adult I still link the two words but in a different way. Now I see the ability to be present as a beautiful gift.

I’ve learned so much in the last couple of years about how awareness of our breathing can impact and connect our spiritual, emotional and physical worlds. I’m sure anyone who has tried Meditation (which I will write about in more detail) or Yoga Nidra can attest to the power of breathing and the feeling of being present.

Remember to Breathe

jb