focus forward: seeing is becoming

focus forward: seeing is becoming

to focus, v.

to cause (something, such as attention) to be directed at something specific

: to direct your attention or effort at something specific

: to adjust (something, such as a lens or a camera) to make an image clear

we toss the simple, proverb “mind over matter” about in all sorts of circles, now-- in this age of hyper-drive innovation +, markedly, almost obsessive self-improvement-- perhaps more than ever. it’s this concept that bears an almost buddhist quality of a rejection of excessive materialism (the matter piece-- basically that we all are already equipped, internally, with what we need to be content) blended with the conviction that our minds have the power to overcome the obstacles of our perceived realities. kind of this, “if you can dream it, you can achieve it” idea-- the belief that our minds + intentions have a certain power over our physical world, + over our destiny. people with strong faith, with determined intention, with disciplined mental focus, can overcome unbelievable odds-- we see this every day; sometimes, we even call these wildest-dream achievement-things miracles.  

so the mind is powerful.

i think we’ve established that through this first cycle of “health-wheeling.”

but what boggles my own mind is that, again + again, i’m made aware of just how much more of my lived experience is really informed, if not determined by my mental state. i read reports on studies being conducting on the link between mind + body, i read stories about faith or love or fierce hope not just inspiring but fueling human survival, i see clients work dedicatedly through a writing series or a period of coaching +, through rewriting the story they’ve been telling themselves about who they are + what they’re capable of, transform their physical beings + environments. this is astounding. each + every time.

+ so i’m wanting to go out on the limb of my own here + suggest that we can, perhaps, with this evidence, this raw + real human data, create a new proverb to apply to how we think about challenge + transformation, on personal + societal levels:

mind makes matter.

okay, so i know that certain things are fixed + real + unchangeable;

but hear me out.

 
 

one of the most common areas that clients want to focus on in coaching is “movement, exercise, + rest”-- basically, they’re interested in getting in better shape. + this is totally terrific! as this sort of movement muse who’s all about getting curious about how our bodies interact with space + use + create energy, i am always eager to help folks explore how they can incorporate more personally meaningful, sustainable movement into their days + lives. + something that many many people struggle with is maintaining their motivation toward making these changes. now, there are some very physical realities that get in the way of incorporating a new exercise habit into a daily routine, especially for someone who might not enjoy or have a great deal of experience in this area. the exercise is truly going to feel more challenging to these individuals than to someone with a higher physical fitness baseline.  the matter is there-- it’s real.

so what to do with this?

i recently listened to a ted talk by emily balcetis; she's this super-sharp social psychologist at NYU who studies goal-setting + motivation. in this talk, she shares her findings as she followed her own curiosity about why some people find exercise more challenging than others. + what came out of the studies she ran is totally fascinating, + speaks to the power of mental attention + focus. take a listen, + you’ll get the full scoop, but essentially what she learned is that by using something she calls the “eyes on the prize” strategy, her subjects who had physically struggled (read: had actually been slower + more out of shape in a basic numbers measure) with a fitness task, succeeded in actually increasing their speed + performance by focusing their attention on a specific visual goal. dr. balcetis tells us of her subjects that this “prize” was the gamechanger:  “it changed their subjective experience of the exercise. it also changed the objective nature of their exercise.”

truth. +, yes, it’s crazy-astonishing, almost unbelievable:

this strategy of focusing eyes + attention is enough to actually increase the runners’ speed. + the significance of this has profound implications for transformative health behavior change, for life-story change. someone who is successful at achieving this kind of small milestone is more motivated to continue working toward his or her goal, + these tiny steps add up. what’s more, as dr. balcetis notes, this powerful strategy is accessible + applicable a multitude of people in myriad situations, at no financial cost.

intention, attention, + energy-- focus these. + maybe, just maybe, there’s some matter-making mind magic in that sharpened perspective.

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MEET GRETA

for nearly a decade, greta nelson has worked with women + girls in myriad capacities; she brings this kaleidoscope of skill, experience, + energy to active voice. she is a graduate of duke university's integrative health coaching program + holds a master's degree in english education from columbia university teachers college. in addition, she is a practicing educator, writing clinician, + e~ryt 500 certified yoga instructor. greta synchronizes expertise with passion to be a guide, an advocate, + a sister in support to each every one of her clients.

 

 

why to WONDER, WOMAN: a case for AWE

why to WONDER, WOMAN: a case for AWE

to [feel] wonder, v.

1.     to experience feeling of awe +/or surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable

2.     to desire or be curious to know something

3.     to marvel at

as i spent this week dwelling in + researching + seeking out the ways in which “spirituality” appears the world, i’ve been staggered + dazzled + astonished + awed + surprised + all kind of wonder-filled by its omnipresence (basically, its essential everywhere-ness), by its accessibility, + also by its incredible POWER. there’s a reason that the MARVELous heroine who’s currently dominating the box-office is associated with this word. WONDER, clearly, is all kinds of potent.

+ the implications of wonder extend far beyond entertainment, or even on the urgent cultural work of gender equality + women’s empowerment. spirituality + its verb-state of “wonder” hold a crucial + often under-appreciated place in the Duke IM model for the wheel of health; finally, study upon study confirms that this elusive, invisible, + mysterious force (+ its absence) has a tremendous impact on human well-being.

most of us think about feeling “awe” as an extraordinary, rare, + conditional experience; it’s not accessible to the super-busy, average hard-working modern person who’s just trying to keep it together, to make ends meet, to survive in the throes of life’s demands + challenges. but dr. michelle “lani” shiota from the university of arizona studies awe + its impact on human behavior + psychology; she urges us all to reshape the way we think about wonder as being merely an “emotional luxury item.” researchers are discovering something that faith-driven circles have always known at a gut + heart level:  that feeling awe + being in a state of WOW-worthy wonderment correlate positively with a range of social, emotional, mental, + physical health benefits.

WONDER, + more specifically feeling such inspired astonishment, has been found to encourage collaboration, to slow down our perception of the passage of time, to promote a greater sense of connection, satisfaction, + purpose, + to lower stress-- on even a hormonal level. “to speak to this last claim specifically, study, published recently in the journal emotion, suggests that feeling awe may promote good health people who reported feeling awe on a regular basis tended to have lower markers of inflammation, which has been correlated with ailments like heart disease + cancer.”

 
 

WOW, indeed.

so wonderment, while often associated with youth + a certain flavor of nostalgia for naive simplicity, is absolutely not child’s play; in fact, it’s possible that this condition has the potential to transform our real adult lives in very concrete + measurable ways.

so what is wonder, + how do we get more of it?

wonder is the seed of spirituality. it’s an act of faith, + it’s a powerful force with which to provoke the awakening of potential;

in order to experience it, we need to be not just okay with, but also curious about, MYSTERY.

+ this is a bold risk. it means being vulnerable enough to not know, not control, not understand.

SURPRISE is a gift that we can receive only if we don’t have to know everything. if we already know everything (about ourselves, about other people, about ‘how the world works’) we’re going to see only what we feel we already know to be true. there’s no room for astonishment.

that’s what faith is all about. it’s about letting go of a need for knowing, for control; but then, too, about not turning our backs on or dismissing, or judging that mystery, on the inexplicable, on the unfamiliar-- + embracing + holding space for it.

ONLY THEN can we SEE the illuminating beauty of HUMAN SPIRIT, of human divinity walking around on planet earth.

+ the benefit? no wonder stress levels drop when people experience awe. it’s an exhalation; it’s a liberation from this absurd sense that we don’t have to have it all figured out; we don’t have to have all the answers; there’s so much power + beauty in the mystery.

THAT is spiritual.

to wonder is to have faith, the lightest, most comforting, most alive way.

so how about we try this as a regular practice: a call to action for us all to

seek out

the awesome.

+ put ourselves in the way of the wonder

1.     heighten your senses: open your eyes + prick up your ears, follow your nose + tantalize your tastebuds, tap into textures touch + tune into your intuition

2.     play!: practice with the experts- kids + animals might just be your best teachers

3.     shift your perspective: shake up your routines, reroute your patterns (from how you brush your teeth to how you interact with a colleague to how you eat your lunch)

4.     ask questions: be inquisitive; be curious from a heart-driven place

5.     be in your body: dance, tumble, run, swim, MOVE, breathe….

6.     get out in the world: explore human + natural landscapes

7.     open your mind + let it be blown

looking for more?

this AWEsome quiz, designed by the whip-smart folks at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, can

provide a pretty you-tailored measure of how + whether your wonder-muscle is already working

+

give you some fun + practical pointers for infusing your life with inspiration on the daily.

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MEET GRETA

for nearly a decade, greta nelson has worked with women + girls in myriad capacities; she brings this kaleidoscope of skill, experience, + energy to active voice. she is a graduate of duke university's integrative health coaching program + holds a master's degree in english education from columbia university teachers college. in addition, she is a practicing educator, writing clinician, + e~ryt 500 certified yoga instructor. greta synchronizes expertise with passion to be a guide, an advocate, + a sister in support to each every one of her clients.

 

 

what’s your color cure?

what’s your color cure?

to imbue, verb

   1.    to inspire or permeate with a feeling or quality

   2.    to introduce one thing into another so as to affect it throughout

this week, we’ve been waking up to the wildly powerful influence that physical environment has on our physical, mental, + emotional health. i, personally, have noticed that bringing my attention to this relationship between me + my surroundings (especially through the kaleidoscopic lens of all of my senses) has given me an abundance of oh wow! connect-the-dots moments in the last several days. even as someone who’s always been tapped into + conscious of the importance of atmosphere + space + landscape to her mood + energy, i keep finding fresh examples of this intersection in the world around me. from the power of decluttering to the potency of regular doses of fresh air + sunshine, from the impact of fresh flowers in a room to the effect that candlelight can have on the quality of a meal, we have overwhelming evidence everywhere of the way that environmental factors shape our health.

with this data illuminating that truth, we’re invited into action; the proof’s here that

through conscious + compassionate curation of those environments, we can enhance our wellbeing in ways large + small.

 we can imbue them, infuse them, with the colors + the qualities that give us comfort, pleasure, + ultimately, health. 

i choose today to share a story that captures just how direct + profound this relationship between person + place, character + setting, is. 

an instructor + mentor of mine down at Duke IM shared this when we coaches-to-be at the time got into discussing the somewhat abstract concept of physical environment being so intimately connected to a person’s health.

this professor worked with a client, let’s call her jane, who had been referred for health coaching to support her in addressing chronic insomnia. jane had struggled with this condition for all of her adolescent + adult life; in her mid thirties now, she was at the end of her physical + emotional rope, feeling close to hopeless about finding relief from this + beyond discouraged at the way in which her lack of sleep was taking a tremendous toll on all other aspects of her life— work, relationships, everything. my teacher, jane’s health coach, was prepared to meet jane wherever she happened to be in her health journey, but expected that, likely, the two would brainstorm solutions in the area of the wheel of health focused on movement, exercise, + rest jane arrived to her first coaching session with this diagnosis.

the sneaky-beautiful power of health coaching is that in it’s truest form, it is a client-driven practice. as such, we as coaches always have room to be genuinely surprised, + potentially inspired by the insight + deep wisdom of the people with whom we’re privileged to work + to walk beside. in this partnership, we coaches are the behavior change experts, but our clients are the experts when it comes to themselves.

jane arrived at that session having completed the personal health inventory (phi) + having carefully thought through her unique relationship with each facet of the wheel of health. she had been fixated for years on unlocking the elusive epiphany to solve her insomnia: seeing slews of sleep specialists, experimenting with a range of nutritional, exercise, + stress-reduction regimens, + exploring various medication options. she was frustrated + exhausted with the topic. this was not going to be the area in which she set her health goals. instead, she arrived at this session energized by + committed to the idea of working on the area of “physical environment” (or as i call it in my practice: “inhabit”). after completing the phi, she, somehow, knew in her bones that it was only by addressing + working with this “environmental” dimension of her whole-person health that she might find the answer to this life-long struggle.

“what i need to do first,” jane said to her coach, “is paint my room.” paint it this glowing sunshine yellow, specifically. she followed this redecoration impulse with a few additional key elements, including purchasing a hot water bottle + softer, golden-hued lightbulbs for the lamps in her bedroom. through their conversations in this + follow-up sessions, client + coach realized that jane’s anxiety around sleeping had taken root early in childhood when she was living in a home that was defined by a profound impoverished sense of lack + was nearly always frigid; here, she felt little in the way of nourishing, cozy warmth, or even comfort or safety. when she went to bed, this old fear seized her most as her body memories of this deep cold stirred in her terror that if she fell asleep she might not wake up again.

what coaching allowed jane to see was that she had the answer, a personal + counterintuitive one, in her all along. because coaching encouraged her to examine + make connections among + between these disparate aspects of her life, jane found the solution to a health cornerstone, namely sleep. in the days + weeks that followed, jane not only painted her formerly white room a glowing yellow-gold color, but bit by bit she transformed her physical environment to thaw herself healthy. she saw relief from chronic insomnia almost immediately, + reset her sleep habits in just two months.

crazy amazing.

 
 

while the best sleep specialists do talk now about things like “sleep hygiene” (especially when it comes to addressing the physical + mental toxicity that plagues our uber-plugged-in tech-driven culture), not many would have had the time or the tools to facilitate jane’s coming to this powerful prescription for moving toward her own optimal health + wellbeing. coaching left room for the client’s voice, her self-reflection + self-knowledge, her energy, to be the force for epiphany, action, + transformation.

this story, (which is quietly mind-blowing, isn’t it?) reveals multitudes about the power of coaching generally, but also about how essential it is for each to us, all of us, to start treating “wellness” as a multifaceted entity,

+

to, when we’re attempting to address challenges in one area of our health, take into consideration the other areas that may seem unrelated; something like “physical environment” might provide the medicine necessary to healing another facet of our body + being.

so this week, can you shift your attention?

can you look at a struggle you might be having in your own health or in reaching your own goals for cultivating wellbeing, through this lens of “physical environment”?

how might more mindfully, playfully, health-fully inhabiting the places + spaces in your world, reshaping them, perhaps, address your areas of challenge?

how can you imbue your own habitats, (+ your own habits) with light, with warmth, with beauty?

perhaps it starts with a new coat of paint.

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MEET GRETA

for nearly a decade, greta nelson has worked with women + girls in myriad capacities; she brings this kaleidoscope of skill, experience, + energy to active voice. she is a graduate of duke university's integrative health coaching program + holds a master's degree in english education from columbia university teachers college. in addition, she is a practicing educator, writing clinician, + e~ryt 500 certified yoga instructor. greta synchronizes expertise with passion to be a guide, an advocate, + a sister in support to each every one of her clients.

how to start living your future... now

how to start living your future... now

to envision, v.

1.      to imagine as future possibility, to visualize

imagination is an essential ingredient in the project of human transformation; every goal we set ourselves is the product of the potential inside of us to be able to see something new, something changed, something innovated. the capacity to envision ourselves + our worlds differently is the seed that germinates into full flourishing.

to grow, we need a vision.

as teens + adults, our imaginations don’t get nearly enough exercise; our dreaming ability atrophies as we get more concerned with more “practical realities” in our “grown up” worlds.

our imagination muscles need to be stimulated, strengthened, rebuilt, especially if we want to make transformation happen—

+ an amazing tool for this?

language. grammar, of the verb tenses variety, specifically.

paying attention to + shifting the tenses with which we speak + write about our health + our lives can provide us not just with invaluable information about ourselves + our health + values; it can actually give us with the power to make meaningful change.   

the past, present, + future tense each play a key role in the process.

+ unpacking each in the context of how it impacts how we tell our unique health story (see below)— that’s potent stuff.

the past: i was.

while we don’t dwell in the past as much as in coaching as in more therapeutic work, the past is important to the process because it provides crucial data about how a person has shaped + been shaped by her life experience. it’s the background for the story she tells about herself + her health, + as such is rich with opportunity to increase self-knowledge + to gain valuable insight into personal tendencies, passions, challenges, + strengths.

the present: i am.

the present is where a person currently finds herself, the crucial place + time where she is experiencing a need or a desire for change, for a mini-or a major metamorphosis. she speaks here about herself in the present tense, taking inventory of the realities of her situation + its particular challenges + opportunities. she takes an honest, compassionate, curious approach to looking at herself, + from this place can determine what she might want to keep, to modify, or to let go of.

the future: i will be.

the future is the vision for the possible. it’s the home of hope + the canvas for creating a life for a more vibrant self. it provides both the roadmap + the reason for someone to make meaningful, successful changes to achieve her optimal health. spending time designing + developing a multifaceted, authentic vision strengthens + makes “sticky” a person’s motivation to move toward this future.  

often, when we play around with thinking about the future, we distance it— we keep it in the dreaming stage + as a result, we never get a chance to try it on for size. we decide to begin tomorrow, to say “in the future, i will do different, be different.” the gulf between today + tomorrow is what’s keeping us safe from the risks it takes make even the tiniest changes. if we can always push the desires for our future self into the  domain of “someday” then we’ll never actually get to that vision.

so how to break that pattern?

 
 

that’s what we’re up to in this inaugural “flourishing” week.

you’re going to write about your future. you’re going to describe, in exquisite, multi-sensory detail the vision for your future health + happiness, the vision for your life.

now, if you’re looking for a place to begin, try addressing each area of the wheel of health— this can be a really useful tool!

describe the basics of your life— the what + who + where + when + how— you can even begin to get at the “why” if you wish! be as specific as possible. + dream big, using the parameters of the past + the present to inform your vision, but not to define it.  

here's the catch, though: you’re going to write your future in the present tense.

instead of writing, “in ten years, i will be ten pounds lighter, will have been promoted to manager, will have gotten married to a partner whom i adore, will be living in a small but comfortable apartment, + will be exercising regularly + practicing yoga two times a week.”

write, “i am ten pounds lighter, i have been promoted to manager, i am married to a partner whom i adore, i live….” (you get the picture).

why do this?

well, writing ourselves into the flourishing future we want is the first step toward actually getting there. until we see + feel ourselves in that future, until we inhabit it + explore it in present now terms, it will always be outside of us.

so, what’s stopping you?

make your own time machine— a piece of paper, a pen. harness your power, + turn the possible into the present.

MEET GRETA

for nearly a decade, greta nelson has worked with women + girls in myriad capacities; she brings this kaleidoscope of skill, experience, + energy to active voice. she is a graduate of duke university's integrative health coaching program + holds a master's degree in english education from columbia university teachers college. in addition, she is a practicing educator, writing clinician, + e~ryt 500 certified yoga instructor. greta synchronizes expertise with passion to be a guide, an advocate, + a sister in support to each every one of her clients.

your relationship with food: to eat VS. to nourish

your relationship with food: to eat VS. to nourish

how your fuel your body + mind; includes exploring your unique complex relationship with food, navigating challenges with weight + body image, tackling emotional eating struggles, + designing + implementing habits for health-driven nourishment that fuels your fullest life

consider the definition of this verb:

to eat

1. to take into the mouth + swallow for nourishment; chew + swallow (food).

2. to consume by or as if by devouring gradually; wear away; corrode:

3. to make (a hole, passage, etc.), as by gnawing or corrosion.

now, take a look at this word:

to nourish

1. to sustain with food or nutrient; supply with what is necessary for life, health, + growth

2. to cherish, foster, keep alive, etc.

3. to strengthen, build up, or promote

if you were to select one of these two verbs to describe the function of food in your own vision for your most vibrant health, which would you choose?

clearly, there’s a striking difference between the act of eating + that of nourishing. it’s this tension that’s central to the struggle many of us feel when it comes to nutrition.

i’m sure you’ve already begun to notice that i am kind of bewitched + utterly dazzled by the power of words. i love peeling back the layers of the language we use to characterize ourselves, our unique experience of the world, + our relationships in it, because i know that words have the capacity to define our reality.

so i choose words deliberately + with great care, trying to precisely align them with the meaning i’m aiming to capture + convey. needless to say, with my commitment to this project, i spend a lot of time inside the dictionary, unpacking definitions.

to eat + to nourish. taking the a fine-tooth comb to these words reveals two worlds-apart ways not just of doing, but also of being.

food lives at the heart of our anxiety as women. our relationships with food often offer us profound reflections about our relationships with our core selves.each of us has her own food story; it has all of the dimensions of any great drama: a range of compelling secondary characters— lovers, teachers, friends, etc.— along with a bewildering blend of humor, trauma, intrigue, betrayal, adventure, failure, triumph, temptation. there’s a whole psychology to this tale-telling. + what gets tricky is that when we women talk about food, much of the time, we’re really talking about our feelings about our own self-worth.

 
 

i’m not a nutritionist, i’m not a dietician; i’m not trained in food science, not even in the culinary arts. but i am always seeking + learning, + along the way, i’ve gained a pretty robust wealth of knowledge about this vast field, at least enough to begin to realize just how much i have yet to explore + discover. + that’s half the magic. for my own part, though, i’ve figured out ways in which to fuel my particular body that align with my spirit, + it’s through cultivating a hard-won compassionate awareness to + curiosity about the “nutrition” that i’ve recognized this:

that the “how” + the “why” behind my eating are just as central to my relationship with food as is the “what.”

in my work with clients, i am not in the business of telling anyone how or what to eat; my values about what it means to nourish + be nourished have been shaped by my unique needs + choices, + i fiercely believe that each of us is the expert about her own best prescription for thriving. what i offer are some tools, some ideas, to help each of us tap into her own innate nourishment wisdom. + sometimes that means redefining the terms, + revising the story.

so an intention in action for this week:

take twenty to thirty minutes to write your own food story; get curious about your own complex relationship with your food-life.

explore the influences upon your food choices, + also upon the way your think about the function of nutrition in your life.

consider some central “whos” + “whens” + “wheres” + “whys” + “whats” that come into play when your look at your relationship with this essential element of health.

ask yourself: in what ways do i “eat” + in what ways do i “nourish” myself?

+ then, think, “hmmmm, how might i invite more peace, lightness, more nourishment into my fullest, most energized self?”

“how can i redefine + rewrite my own food story?”

(note: many of my clients surprise themselves by just how much they find themselves wanting to write about this topic! feel free to expand this practice to extend over multiple days, or return to it again somewhere down the road.)

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MEET GRETA

for nearly a decade, greta nelson has worked with women + girls in myriad capacities; she brings this kaleidoscope of skill, experience, + energy to active voice. she is a graduate of duke university's integrative health coaching program + holds a master's degree in english education from columbia university teachers college. in addition, she is a practicing educator, writing clinician, + e~ryt 500 certified yoga instructor. greta synchronizes expertise with passion to be a guide, an advocate, + a sister in support to each every one of her clients.