Running the Gauntlet

Mindless Eating to Conscious Choice. ~ Part 1

I know a woman who faces a daily challenge in her workplace.  She works in a government building with lots of staff, multiple offices, and a reception area overflowing with free treats.  She says that it feels like she’s facing a gauntlet of candy every time she has to pass the reception desk on her way to her office.

Human beings evolved as hunter-gatherers. We evolved to eat food when it was readily available.  When our ancestors found sweet berries and fruits out in the wild, they understood that those things had a limited shelf life and would be gone soon.  They ate sweets when they were available. All of them.  This is normal human behavior because of the way we evolved.

Google image

The woman went on to tell me that it was possible for her to resist the sugary treats early in the day, however the later her work day wore on, the less in-control of her own decision-making she felt.  That makes total sense.  When we rely on willpower, it’s like a bank account we draw down throughout the day. By late afternoon we may have used up our entire supply of willpower. This is common for most of us when we try to resist something.

This resonates completely for me.  I can’t tell you how many times I started an eating plan with complete conviction, only to fall victim to old familiar patterns later in the day. It’s easy to do.  Familiar eating patterns often call us back because they ARE familiar. We can get there with our eyes closed.  Sometimes we’re in the middle of a behavior before we even realize we’re doing it!

This is even easier to do when we find ourselves in an environment with free-flowing food.

Easier still when we find ourselves in a series of environments with free-flowing sweets, high-fat foods, and alcoholic beverages, served up alongside heaping helpings of social pressures, anxiety, and stress. 

Like the modern holiday season!

Halloween to Super Bowl is one long gauntlet of goodies.

If tradition demands we eat particular treats on special holidays, who are we to argue?  It’s so EASY to find any reason to eat off plan!  It’s easy to get distracted, and head down that familiar path toward eating foods that soothe our emotions, but do not serve our health.

The gauntlet lies before us, and the challenges are familiar and inviting.

Family members want to love us with food.  Holiday buffets are loaded with sugary nostalgia, satisfying fats, and dopamine rewards.  The desire to release stress, feeds our desire to eat because eating releases dopamine in our brains which actually relieves stress and makes us feel good.  It makes total sense that if we are feeling stressed, we want to engage in familiar behaviors that we know will release stress.

Often our own beliefs challenge us and limit our choices: “I have to eat the pie on Thanksgiving!”  Or whatever it is for you – peanut butter cups at Halloween, cheese balls or fudge at Christmas – that “thing” you can’t resist.  We convince ourselves that we have no power over certain foods by reciting mantras like “I can’t say no to cheese” or
“I can never resist chocolate.”

Those beliefs limit us into thinking we MUST say yes to the holiday delight.  What if someone offers seconds?  Thirds?  How many times must we say yes to it?  Yes to them?  Until the treats are all gone?  Until we are no longer in the vicinity of the treat?  And what if we want to say no?  What if we’re really full?  Do we still have to eat the pie just because it’s that holiday?  

If we convince ourselves that we are powerless whenever our favorite temptation is about, then guess what?  Of COURSE we give in when it’s sitting there free for the taking (we’re powerless not too, right?).  We have trained our mind (brainwashed ourselves) to BELIEVE that there is no other option.  We believe the lie we have been telling ourselves – that we are powerless to resist.  It’s there in front of us, so we HAVE to eat it.  We convince ourselves internally that we have no choice.  It’s a slippery fucking slope.

Then when we overeat, we scold and shame ourselves for “doing it again” or for not sticking to our eating plan.  

I find the descriptor ‘gauntlet’ particularly apt since it has two definitions that fit this situation.

Gauntlet: 1) an intimidating or dangerous experience one must go through in order to reach a goal.  2) the punishment of receiving blows while running between two rows of men with sticks.

But the punishment of blows comes from the self-defeating thoughts inside our own head, not rows of men with sticks.  

How was your Halloween?   
How successfully did you align with your own intentions and goals?   
How does your energy feel when you read those questions? 

If the questions above leave you with a sinking feeling, you are judging yourself harshly. 

Our own harsh judgment is one of the BIGGEST things holding us in this pattern of wanting to change, trying to make changes, not feeling 100% successful with the new behaviors, beating ourselves up for ‘failure’, and then comforting with the old behaviors we are trying to avoid – which leads to further ‘failure’ and beating ourselves up.

This was my pattern for decades.  Coaching helped me disrupt that behavior pattern so I could finally grow forward!

So how do we disrupt familiar behavior patterns that are harming us?  How do we walk past the candy basket on the desk fifteen times a day when it has our favorite morsels?  How do we navigate the holidays without overeating?

HOW do we move from mindless eating to conscious choice?

As a core energy coach, I have a process to help my clients do JUST that.  Today I want to share just the first crucial piece.

I have discovered from my own experience and from talking with clients that retraining our self-critical messaging is of utmost importance when it comes to making conscious, intentional choices around food.

How to Retrain Your Inner Critic

The critic voice in your head is a part of you.  That critic arose with the most noble of intentions – to protect you from harm.  She cries in alarm whenever she senses danger.  When our critic voice tells us to keep small, play it safe, don’t make waves, don’t try anything new – she is sincerely trying to protect us from emotions that feel crappy.  When we experienced fear, embarrassment, guilt, shame, regret, rejection, anger, and so many other painful emotions, we did not like the way they felt.  Our critic voice arose to keep us from experiencing those emotions again.

image borrowed from the National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine

If she perceives that we may experience uncomfortable emotions, she will say anything to protect us from that – even make us feel like shit so we don’t risk embarrassment or rejection.  Weird, right?  The human mind is fascinating.

We tend to be far more forgiving of others than we are of ourselves, so there are a couple of techniques that I find helpful to stop the exhaustion created by inner critic messaging.  In the moment we become aware that we are repeating an OLD behavior pattern, we can choose to beat ourselves up again, or we can choose one of these helpful alternatives:

Toddler Technique ~

If we had a toddler at home learning to walk, and she lost her balance and fell on her diapered butt, would we scold her? Of course not. We encourage her when she is doing well, and understand that it is completely normal when she loses her balance.

How different is this from how we treat ourselves when we fall short of your goals?  It’s very common when learning new behaviors to get frustrated or irritated with ourselves when we lose our balance, or don’t get it perfectly right on the first try.

When we’re learning new behaviors, we’re going to fall occasionally!

Can we give ourselves some grace around new behaviors, just as we would the toddler, while we find our balance?

How possible is it to treat yourself with as much love and gentle kindness as you would treat your toddler?

What emotions come up if you treat yourself that way?

Put another way; Will we beat up on our toddler-self, or lovingly encourage her to try again, and help her regain her balance?

Helpful Employee Technique ~

Pretend your inner critic voice is a valuable, loyal employee who wants nothing more than to protect you.  If you ignore or repress the critic voice, she generally screams loudly because she is afraid you will leave her behind, she will be lonely, and you will surely come to harm if she is not there to protect you from danger.

What if instead of ignoring or repressing her, we give her praise and appreciation for being SO good at her job?  

We can let this aspect of ourselves know that we value her service so much that we have a new and more important role for her.  We can offer this employee, who protects us so aggressively, the job of protecting us from all the harmful inner critic messages that we have internalized.

We can make a list for this employee of all the messages we WANT to internalize, and retrain her to read those messages when she catches the old messaging sneaking in.  This employee wants to help, and she is already really good at spotting harm!  We can retrain her from a critical voice to a healing, nourishing, supportive ally.

Sometimes our helpful employee will fall back into old patterns.  That’s perfectly normal after years or decades of being trained to be hyper critical. 

Gently remind her that we’re not doing things that way anymore, we’re going in a healthier direction.  Read over the list of new messages again to gently get your employee back on the right track.

We can retrain our inner critic to be a helpful employee. It’s a vital first step toward disrupting familiar patterns of behavior that we wish to change.

Grow on!

What sorts of messages has your critic has been using to beat up on you?
What kind of things trigger you beating up on yourself?
What kind of things trigger your need to protect yourself from negative emotions?
What messages would you like to internalize? Make a list of these messages for your helpful employee, and read it often!


If you want to learn more about the process to move from mindless eating to conscious choice, book a 20 minute conversation AT THIS LINK. I would love to chat with you to find out if partnering with me can help you overcome what’s holding you back, and start creating the changes you desire!

Are you worthy of oxygen?

Many of my clients resonate with a caregiver vibe.  Wives, mothers, teachers, doctors, nurses.  We know what it’s like to sacrifice for our children, our parents, our spouse.  We nurture, support, encourage, and serve.  We enjoy helping others, love to see them reach their potential, live out their dreams, achieve their goals and desires, grow to be strong, happy, and confident.

I have used the oxygen mask metaphor with dozens of clients and friends.  You know how the flight attendant always tells you that in case of emergency, you should put your own oxygen mask on first and then help anyone who may require your assistance?  I try to impart the importance of that to my clients.  Of course it makes sense.  We can’t help anyone if we can’t breathe, right?  

I remember when one of my clients protested that example, insisting she would assist those in her care before herself.  When I asked how helpful she might be if she didn’t have oxygen, she insisted she would hold her breath and care for others before tending to her own needs.  She went on to say that she’d rather die than put her own needs above her children’s.  She’s certainly not alone, it’s quite common for parents to feel that way.  But how helpful is it?  

*As helpful as giving mouth to mouth resuscitation while only exhaling and not inhaling.

*As helpful as your cell phone when you don’t plug it in.

*As helpful as pouring from a water pitcher you forgot to fill.

If we forget to fill up inside, what on earth have we got to give anyone?

And where on earth did we get the idea that anyone is more worthy
of our energy and oxygen than we are?

My client is NOT alone.  I have engaged in this energy-drain over a good portion of my own life and a surprising number of my clients have echoed similar sentiments when it comes to meeting the needs of others vs our own needs.  Many of my friends and relations are givers and fixers as well.  Myriad humans believe it is either selfish or greedy to put their own needs first.  Different cultures and religions have different variants of the idea that to honor others above the self is somehow noble or even sustainable.

I cry bullshit.

Yes, I thrive when helping others.  Everyone, but especially my kids and my clients. Yet when I make sure my own needs are being met, I am so much more effective at connecting with and supporting others, and I have an increased ability to affect positive, sustainable change.

It’s true for me.  It’s true for many of my clients.  

How true is it for you?

Grow on!

Are you allowing yourself to breathe? 
Are you denying yourself air because of some limiting belief you heard and internalized many years ago? 
How frequently are your own needs being met? 
What are you putting off that would truly make your heart sing? 
What is the thought/belief holding you back from meeting your own needs? 
How willing are you to start letting go of those limiting beliefs?

Allow yourself to take a DEEP cleansing breath, reminding yourself how very worthy you are.

And as you exhale, release the old belief that doesn’t serve your health.

Inhale worthiness into your blood and bones.
Exhale old beliefs that do not serve.

Repeat multiple times daily until energy shifts and you are closer to believing the new thought than the old one

Breathing is a Superpower

Breathing itself is a superpower, because that’s what inspires life.  Literally.  Without breathing, we cease to exist.  Powerful!

Yet many people pay little or no attention to what’s happening with their breath.  Our lungs function without any conscious attention or effort on our part, so most of us take our breathing for granted.

What if I told you that becoming aware of our current breath pattern, then consciously choosing to shift our breath allows us to harness that superpower?

Try it right now.  Stop reading and take a long slow deep breath.

What shifted for you?  Likely what shifted is that more of your energy is here, now, which means more of it is available to you.  Focusing on the breath brings us into the present moment.  

There is a Hindu belief that says the number of breaths allotted to us in a lifetime is predetermined, and that we can delay the time of death by regulated breathing.  Read more on that here and learn some breathing techniques to lengthen your life!

Shifting breath is a helpful first step in processing our emotions. 

It’s pretty well documented that we can change our breath pattern to disrupt negative emotions and change our mood.  Deep, slow breathing into the belly is strong medicine for anxiety, fear and anger.  Expectant mothers take classes in how to shift their breath so they are better prepared to face the pain and endurance required during childbirth.  Athletes focus on breathing practices to help reduce fatigue and promote stamina. I used to suffer from severe travel anxiety and changing my breath was the best tool I found to curtail it in the moment.

I encourage clients to take a deep grounding breath as soon as they realize they are experiencing any emotion they do not wish to feel.  It’s the pause that gives us just enough space to choose how we wish to process the emotion.  Focusing on our breath can be a powerful first step in shifting old behavior patterns, or trying to break a habit.

This article in Psych Central talks about a study that indicates that emotions may be caused, at least in part, by the way we breathe!

A shift in breathing is a shift in energy, and often allows a calmer perspective when we find ourselves in chaos.  We can use breathing to decrease stress, calm nerves, sharpen focus, minimize negative thoughts, and increase energy!  

Like I said, Superpower!

Grow on!

How much attention do you pay to your breath?

What is your normal breathing like?

How do you feel when you slow and deepen your breath?

Try inhaling deeply, then exhaling forcefully when you are experiencing an emotion you do not enjoy.  What shifts for you?

Explore different breathing techniques on YouTube.  Which ones appeal to you?

Navigate the Holidays without Spiraling into Anxiety or Stress Eating!

I used to think it was NORMAL to put on 5-10 pounds during the holidays.  I told myself it was no big deal, everyone does it, I’ll drop the weight later.  

Sometimes I did. More often I gave up.  I grew heavier as years passed.

Joy & Cyndi ~ 2005

Two years after I got sober I was using food like a drug and weighed over 220 pounds.  I would eat like I could NEVER get full, even when I was full, then restrict my calories ridiculously, and try to lose the weight as fast as possible.  

I beat myself up for the extra weight I was carrying, scolding myself, causing increased stress, which caused me to eat more and gain weight, for which I scolded myself.  I felt ashamed for being so WEAK that I turned to food for comfort. That caused MORE stress and MORE eating to numb those feelings.

That was my pattern for over a decade.

My chiropractor told me that my debilitating pain was caused by inflammation in my lumbar spine, and that inflammation was caused by inflammatory foods. He did not say what foods were inflammatory, but I cleaned up my act and stopped eating so much sugar, at least for a little while. As soon as my back  felt better, I went back to eating whatever I like. Then I woke up one morning with half my face paralyzed. The medical doctors had a name: Bell’s palsy, but no idea what caused it or what to do for it.  They told me the symptoms could last for as little as three weeks, or be permanent.  They had no way to know. 

The palsy symptoms have slowly improved over time, but have never gone away completely.   Several months after the onset, I read a book that suggested that palsy symptoms might be due to inflammation. That got me to thinking about inflammatory foods again.

I knew that some of the foods I was eating were damaging my health, and that the medical community was of no help. I decided to start looking for a naturopath hoping that she might be able to help me.

I searched for a naturopath for months before finding one completely by accident. In early October, I was driving home from the beach and pulled over to stretch my legs. When I got out and walked around the sidewalk there was her sign. I should have made an appointment right then, but I took a picture of her sign with her contact information and filed it away. 

I really wanted to talk to someone about those lingering palsy symptoms, but I knew without a doubt from the center of my being that she was going to tell me to change the way that I was eating.

I made a conscious decision that I was not willing to give up sugar and treats until after the holidays, so that I could eat whatever I liked and enjoy myself without feeling restricted or left out.

I put it on my agenda to  make an appointment with the naturopath early in the new year.

That holiday season I ate like a fiend.  Everyone knows if you’ve got a diet coming up you double down on calories, right?

Between Halloween and Christmas that year, I gained 20 lb. When January came I was miserable.  My energy was depressed. I wasn’t working out. I had night sweats that soaked my sheets.  I was ashamed of the way I looked. I didn’t like the way I felt. I was nauseous most mornings.  I was hungry all the time, and I was heavy with shame.

Of course I forgot about calling the naturopath right away, and in early February, I awoke one morning with pain in my intestines that I was certain would kill me. I was really sick. And I was scared.  I had a panic attack, and my blood pressure rose off the charts.  

I went to the hospital, and got no answers, and no warm fuzzy feeling the answers were coming. Then I remembered that I was going to call that naturopath. So I did.  

At our first appointment she told me that she suspected food allergies. She did a blood test, and put me on an Elimination Diet that excluded all the foods known to be troublemakers for two weeks while we waited for the results. I had no problems whatsoever sticking to the eating plan because the pain was an all-too-real indication that there was something seriously wrong with me and I needed to make some changes.  Digesting HURT, and I didn’t’t eat anything but produce for nearly two weeks.

When the food allergy test came back, it told me something I had long suspected.  Dairy is not my friend. In fact, the food allergy test showed that I am allergic to dairy, sugar, and wheat.

I thought my life was over. 

The idea of living without dairy and wheat seemed impossible, restrictive, and heinous.  As far as I was concerned the perfect diet was bagels and cream cheese for breakfast, quesadillas for lunch and pizza for dinner.  Everyone knows the perfect hiking food is a big hero sandwich loaded with cold cuts and cheese.  This is the reason I hadn’t gone to see her in October!  

But, I knew that my health was in serious trouble. My body was giving me very clear messages about that. It needed to make changes in what I was eating.

So I stopped eating dairy, wheat and sugar.

And guess what? Not only did I feel better right away, and start to see improvements in the symptoms I had been experiencing within a week, I started to see improvements in things I had not related to food. My skin cleared up. The Eczema on my ankles and elbows went away. The night sweats vanished. My energy level increased tremendously. I started sleeping better, and my libido returned.

By the time my birthday arrived in June, I had dropped 50 lb without doing a single workout. The only change I made was to lose the dairy, wheat, and sugar.  It was like a miracle. I had been trying to drop excess weight my entire life.  

Sugar In The Wound

Despite my triumph, when stress began to increase, or I was pressed for time, I headed back down that well worn path to the comfort of food, and the ease of wheat and dairy foods. 

I mean salads, REALLY, who has time for all that chopping?!
Am I right? 

Just two weeks before my first vacation to Europe, I was SICK again. 
I put myself on the elimination diet and called my naturopath.  This time I got a diagnosis of SIBO.  Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth is no joke.  I was sick at least part of nearly every day of my European vacation.  I lost 10 pounds the first 5 days we were there.  Horrible, miserable intestinal symptoms.  We still had a fabulous time, we simply had a lot of challenges along with the fun.

It was after that trip that I realized that dairy and sugar had become my new booze. At the time, I actually had many thoughts about being powerless over sugar. I told myself things like: “I can’t pass up Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, I can’t resist free candy, Halloween is my favorite holiday, I can’t leave any cookies for later, If it’s in the house I have to eat it.”  And I knew with every cell in my body I didn’t have the power to pass up cheese on a buffet table. 

That kind of conviction will override healthy intentions every time!
I had these mantras in my head that blocked my success despite my overwhelming desire to regain my health. I felt like I must be crazy!

Even though I lived through evidence in my own life that proved this eating pattern makes me sick, miserable, and unable to enjoy my life, I returned to it again and again when I was feeling stressed or lonely!

Even though I suspected long before my naturopath told me that I was allergic to cheese because of the way I craved it –  just like alcohol –  I returned to it whenever I was upset, AND whenever I felt like celebrating.  It was truly a deadly double edged sword.

Even though I had experienced hangovers from overeating just like I did from over drinking, if I was stressed or upset when I walked into an event with free food, I was almost guaranteed to overeat even when I told myself I wasn’t going to do it.

But after Europe, I was finally ready to admit that I needed to make changes.  I wanted to feel energized and healthy.

I knew I had to make changes, but in my experience, I could not eat a little or I would end up eating a lot. I had learned that with my addictive foods, it was ALL of it, or none of it, so I restricted myself completely.  That year at Christmas, I ate ZERO goodies.  I avoided parties and gatherings as much as possible so I wouldn’t screw up.  I didn’t make my usual holiday candies or cheeseballs.  The entire family complained.  I didn’t buy candy to put into stockings.  I shot resentful looks at people enjoying holiday goodies.  I was miserable, resentful and I felt left out, but  by golly, I had my food addiction under control.

How many of you think that lasted?
By Halloween that year, I was sick again. 

Turned out that being aware that I needed to change was a great start, but I still didn’t have the whole picture.  I was trying to resist the food cravings with willpower alone, and my willpower eventually ran out.

I was so tired of the weight roller coaster, the night sweats, the inflammation, the achey joints, that powerless feeling I got around chocolate.  I was sick of it all. 

Worse than that, I was tired of letting myself down!  I felt trapped in an vicious cycle of wanting healthy change, planning to make those changes, and then not following through.  It left me full of self-doubt and lacking self-confidence!

I felt like I was spinning out of control, like I was powerless over food, like I would never figure it out.  And right in the middle of my turmoil, my normally helpful and supportive partner brought home a couple of bricks of cheese from the grocery store.

Rage.  

Why would he do this?  He knows I can’t eat dairy!  He knows I am sick!  He obviously knows I can’t resist it.  He knows this will end up on my burger and he doesn’t care!  I wanted to eat ALL of it because – who cares?

I care.  

I clearly heard the voice in my head say, “I care.”  Who cares what he brings home?  He’s not forcing me to eat it.

And like a ton of bricks it hit me.  

Esther Hicks and Abraham tell a wonderful story about getting tabasco in your pie.  Just because the tabasco is in the kitchen does NOT mean it will get in your pie.  The only way the tabasco gets in your pie is if YOU put it in your pie.

SAME with the cheese, Cyndi!  The only way the cheese gets in your pie hole is if you put the cheese in your pie hole!

I had NOT been taking responsibility for what I was eating.  

I had been refusing to take responsibility for what I was eating by pretending to be powerless over certain foods.  I was giving away my power by clinging to the belief that if certain foods were available, I HAD to eat them.  I was pretending that I could not control myself around sugar and dairy, when in fact, I am the ONLY one who can choose my actions.  I was simply choosing to give in to temptation and pretend it wasn’t my fault, that it wasn’t my choice, that in fact – I was powerless to change the foods I was eating.

EVERYTHING changed for me with that simple realization.

I took the steps I needed to take to STOP overeating, and stop eating foods I am allergic to, foods that cause harm, inflammation, and all kinds of health problems.  

I’ve learned to navigate the holidays without spiraling into stress and overeating, and I’ve developed a process to help clients do the same!

Grow on!

Is your body ready for some healthy changes?

Join me for my first masterclass to explore these key questions:

●  Why do I overindulge even when I tell myself I won’t?
●  What’s kept me from achieving my health goals in the past?
●  Why do I backslide into old behaviors when I’m stressed?
●  How can I reduce holiday stress that leads to stress eating?
●  Is it possible for me to avoid weight gain during the holidays?
●  How can I stay motivated during the holidays?
●  BONUS – How can I indulge a little bit without overindulging?

Click this link to join the masterclass for just $1!

How to Increase Your Own Motivation

What’s your Why?

Why do you want to do the things that you want to do?  If you don’t know the answer to this question, chances are your motivation is pretty low.

Having a deep, powerful why is a monumental motivator!

Want to motivate others?  Help them connect to their why!
Want to motivate yourself?  Ask yourself WHY you want to do this thing for which you seek motivation.

I hear some of you say, “I don’t WANT to do it, I HAVE to do it.” 

That’s why you have no motivation!

If we feel forced to do something we don’t want to do, of course we don’t feel inspired to jump right in and do our best!  Have you ever noticed that getting out of bed to go to a job you’re not thrilled about can be a real challenge?  Conversely, how challenging is it to get up on the first day of vacation?  Easy, right?!  When we want to do it, we’re inspired to action!

So what will it take to shift “have to” into “want to”?

There are often things that feel like we “have to” (NEED to) do them – as if we have no choice.  But we DO have a choice.  Always.  Sometimes we have a choice about what actions we can take, and sometimes our choice lies in how we perceive what we are doing.  It’s the second set I want to discuss today.

Two Easily-Relatable Examples

Work Scenario –

I have to go to work because I have debt and DREAMS!  I NEED money, so I am forced to spend my time in this way that I do not want!

Health Scenario –

I have to lose weight.  I don’t like how my body looks.  I’m unhealthy.  My doctor says I have to give up foods that I love and work my body harder, and I just don’t want to!

All of the thoughts in each scenario point in the direction of unwanted.  They push against.  These are energy draining thoughts, and most of us FEEL our energy drain just reading them.  Who wants to LIVE them?  If this is how our thoughts feel around any subject, we will NOT be motivated by them.  We might find ways to buffer our feelings and just put up with the crappy job.  We can certainly create plans with action steps that could lead us to our health goals.  But if the whole thing feels like it’s being forced on us, then we are powerless to create sustainable change.

We want to be at choice.

Choice empowers us.  How can we choose to reframe the above thoughts so they are serving and motivating us instead of draining us?  There are as many possibilities as there are people.  It’s going to be different for each of us, but here are some possibilities to consider:

Work Scenario –

I have a steady source of income.  I am moving toward my goals.  I’m paying off debt.  I’m saving for my future, getting closer to my dreams.  This position is a blessing, and a stepping stone on my path to the next position that suits me better and checks off more of my boxes.  I am content that I have this place to stand where I can see my dreams moving toward me, and I can choose to be delighted that I feel my dreams moving closer.  I choose to spend some of my time earning money, and make the MOST of the rest of my hours by finding things that lift my vibration and allow me to enjoy each day of my life!  This is not where I end up, this is the middle of my story, and so much MORE is flowing to me now!

Health Scenario –

I want to feel healthy & energized.  I want to feel confident in my skin.  I want to trust myself & the choices I make.  I can make small adjustments that bring steady improvement.  I want steady improvements.  I want to move in the direction my goals.  I want to learn what foods truly serve my greater health.  It’s not the same for everyone, and I am curious what I will find to be true for me.  Trying new foods is exciting.  I wonder which activities feel good once I give them a chance?  What wonderful new foods and activities will I discover that I love?  I want to feel excited about healthy choices.  I am excited about growing confident.

Which ones resonate for you? Which motivate you? What are some energy supporting thoughts that came up for you as you read these? 

Changing our thoughts takes practice, because the thoughts we’ve been practicing are already in there and attracting more thoughts like the ones we’ve been practicing!

The first step to changing our thoughts into ones that motivate us is awareness!

Grow on!

What came up for you as you read the thought examples above?

What thoughts are you currently thinking that already motivate you toward your goals?

Which thoughts are holding you back?

How can you reframe those to support you in moving toward your goal?

What’s your Why?

The Enemy Within

I have known for a few days now that I need/want to further delay the opening of my massage practice, but I would not give myself permission to announce it as fact.  Why?

I don’t want to disappoint my clients.

Last week I booked July 5 to 19 solid because the COVID numbers were moving in the right direction, and the state of California seemed to have a handle on the reopening process.  Then we started seeing numbers come in from other states as they reopened, and it’s NOT looking promising anywhere that I can see.

NOTHING but health and safety need be considered when deliberating reopening my massage office, but MY tortured brain is still insisting that announcing my decision will “disappoint my clients.”  WTF?

I was beating myself up for so many things in this scenario!  

I shouldn’t have trusted the optimistic appraisal of California’s
re-opening roadmap. I shouldn’t have scheduled my clients so soon (fucking optimism). I should have waited. Why didn’t I wait? And my personal favorite ~ I should have known better! Really? Even though this is NEW and NO ONE in the world knows what to expect, I was holding myself to the standard that I – Cyndi Combs – SHOULD have fucking known what the rest of the world did not!

I know my massage clients really well.  Most of them have been seeing me for years, and not one of them is the kind of person to hold this against me.  Every one of them wants me safe, and wants to stay healthy and protect the health of their family.  But I got out my emotional baseball bat and turned it ruthlessly on myself.

Mostly I just couldn’t figure out why the decision was DRAINING me so much. Thinking about it left me deflated and unmotivated, and the self-flagellation was so FAR under my radar (read: practiced enough to be on auto-pilot) that I didn’t even SEE it. But I sure as hell FELT it in my bones.

Thank the Universe I have a coach!  Thank God I have developed
the habit of journaling when things feel “off” to try to make sense of them.  Thank Goddess I took this realization of constant, systemic
self-flagellation to both my coach and my journal!

YES!  Even though my current income is less than half what it was just three months ago, I make room in my budget to pay a certified, professional coach, and she is worth every penny.

When I took a long, curious look at my behavior, the following observations occurred.

I understand now that my own harsh self-judgment is my biggest roadblock, and a constant drain on my energy. When I beat myself up, it is the anchor that keeps me from moving forward into my goals!

For example: if I eat off plan, and then beat myself up for eating off plan, I am far more likely to eat off plan AGAIN to soothe my hard feelings. But if I eat off plan and then get curious about why I didn’t stick to my healthy intentions, look at my thoughts and  process my emotions, I am far less likely to fall off the plan again!

The thing holding me back more than anything else is my own judgment of my behavior.  Beating myself up has been holding me back. Beating myself up keeps me from accomplishing my goals.  Beating myself up comes REALLY easily to me.  I’ve practiced it repeatedly for decades, so it’s as natural as breathing and occurs with the same regularity.

I’ve been beating myself up for being human. I’ve eviscerated myself for making mistakes, or not getting ideal results on my first attempt.  I’ve been beating myself up for not doing things I thought I  “should” do because other people expected me to do them.  I’ve been beating myself up for not doing things as well as someone who’s been doing them for decades longer than I have. I have beat myself up for “disappointing” my clients because I was too sick or injured to work. 
I have beat myself up for having emotions that I judged to be negative.  I beat myself up for judging myself. I beat myself up because I should have known better. I beat myself up because I should have been farther along by now. I beat myself up because I said or did something that I judged ‘stupid’ and felt embarrassed.

I beat myself up for not getting enough done in a day!
I am the sole employee at THREE business that I run by myself. I am super-productive, highly efficient, and an organizationally GIFTED, super-human achiever by most standards, and I still would beat the crap out of myself for not getting ALL of it done. 

Fuck!  No wonder I’m exhausted.

All of these things are normal human experiences.  But I have been using them against myself. I have been using them to drain my own energy. The biggest drain on my energy is the enemy within me.
And I am done.  

I am done beating myself up.  From this moment forward, I beat myself up for NOTHING and no one. I will not judge myself harshly. I will allow myself human moments including the full range of this amazing Human Experience.

My self-judgement gremlin has been saying, “Cyndi, you can’t handle this.”

And for years now I have believed her, and beat myself up because I didn’t like the emotions I was feeling, or felt I couldn’t handle a situation because it didn’t turn out exactly as I wanted.

Moving Forward

In order to cultivate awareness of self judgement, I will ask:
What’s going on here? Why am I being harsh with me?   How helpful is that? Where did that come from? Why am I telling myself this story? 

I intend from this moment forward to be compassionate with myself and when I fall short of that intention, I can give myself some grace instead of picking up the emotional baseball bat and wielding it against myself!

You can’t kill gremlins.

‘Gremlins’ is a term used in coaching to describe the voices in your head that say things like, “You can’t handle this.”  “You’re not good enough.”  “You suck.”  “Why bother?”  “It’s too late.” “Everyone except YOU has their shit together.”

I’ve learned a few things working through my own gremlins, and guiding clients to work with their gremlins. Gremlins arise to protect us and they don’t like to be left behind. If they fear they will be left behind, they grow louder and cause a great deal of discomfort. The way to ease their fear is to assure them they are not being left behind, and that we will give them an important role to fill in our lives.  I usually do this by writing them a letter, thanking them for protecting me, and offering them a key role in my psyche moving forward.  Here’s what I wrote to this harsh, punishing voice in my head.

My Darling Self-Judgment Gremlin,  
I would be honored if you would accept the role of discernment decider!   Discernment is crucial to human survival, because all of our choices are based on preferences. When I can discern what I do not want, then I can more clearly discern what I do want.   Without you my darling discernment decider, I would feel confused and without direction. You get to help me decide where we steer our ship, which star we follow,  and what flavor ice cream we eat on the way!  Don’t forget your fucking cheerleading skirt!

Much love, Cyndi

Grow on!

What gremlin messages play on repeat in your head?  
How true is that?  
What is it trying to protect you from? 
How much pain is the message causing you? 
How helpful is that? 
Why does this story keep running on repeat?  
What is it costing to listen to constant negative messaging?  
How willing are you to let it go now?

If this resonates for you and you would like to create a roadmap from self-shaming  to self-respect, I offer two FREE coaching sessions to help you shift directions.  WHY free?  Why not charge for the sessions since I have no massage income?  

Because many people don’t understand the value of coaching.  And if finances are currently adversely affected by the pandemic, most won’t be willing to invest in something if they can’t comprehend its value.  Most people immediately see the value after two sessions, and then invest in my services, so the free sessions are a win-win.  Even if the client does NOT invest in my services, it’s a win-win!  I get to practice coaching about which I am passionate and inspired, and they gain insight into themselves and acquire tools that will serve them for as long as they choose to use them!

Labor Pains

I follow Tosha Silver, author & astrologer.  Recently I heard her say that during this time of Pluto transit, we are being forced to look at what hasn’t been looked at.  Individually and collectively we must burn away what needs to burn.  We are each facing our shadow.  This country is facing it’s shadow.  What no longer works must collapse during a Pluto transit.

Given what is happening right now in our country and our world, even those least inclined to astrology would have to say that seems pretty spot on.  We can feel the energy of it!

Our world is in the midst of change.  The change is a microscope, bringing our world into sharper focus so we can see what truly serves us, and what we need to release to create improved versions of ourselves and our world.  

Awareness is the first step.

If we are going to give birth to more beautiful versions of ourselves and our world, then we must LOOK at what we have not been willing to look at.  Now is the time to look.  Now is the time to listen.  Because to create our most beautiful life, our next more beautiful world, we want to take an accounting of what will grow with us, and what we must now burn away.  If we refuse to look at the darkness within our lives (self-loathing, shame, masked emotions) or within the structures of our society (systemic racism), it will destroy us from within like a cancer.

Allow what needs to go go.  Allow space for what you want to receive..

So many of my clients and friends are going through this right now!  We are clearing out closets, emptying attics, and organizing garages.  We are taking classes, hiring coaches, and deepening practices.  We are getting rid of what no longer serves us, and weighs us down.

Our country is also taking a deeper look at what must collapse, or be burned away.  The systemic racism, and militarized police forces that have emerged from it do not protect, nor serve us.  It must now be removed so that we can ALL grow into our full potential.

To refuse to look at what needs to be looked at, to deny what we see, or to choose to resist the changes that will heal us, is about as beneficial as resisting labor pains.

We cannot give birth to ourselves anew if we resist the pain of giving birth.

The astrology is demanding rebirth.  

Grow on!

What needs to go? 
What shadow have you been unwilling to look at? 
How ready do you feel to root it out to make space for something you desire? 
Are you in a space of personal reflection and change?
Are you in a space of societal reflection and change?
What obstacles might arise on your path of growth? 
What strategies will you use to overcome those obstacles? 
If you’ve been trying to make a change for awhile now, what will you try differently?

Let the Butterflies Struggle

Butterflies are my favorite symbol of transformation!

Cyndi @ the beach. Photoshop by donnio1.com

A butterfly’s transformation seems magical!  They arrive in the world as a caterpillar, they gorge themselves, snuggle up in a warm blanket for a nap and – TA DA! – emerge as a lithe creature of grace and great beauty.  Spectacular!

They make it look so easy.  Many of us dream of transforming our lives so magically.  If we could just go to sleep, then awake in the life we dream of living, spread our wings, and take flight without effort!

But how effortless is that transformation, really?

The chrysalis stage looks passive, as if the caterpillar falls asleep,
then wakes up beautiful.  But looks can be deceptive.  The caterpillar doesn’t just grow wings and fly.  The wing bits already exist inside
the caterpillar’s body, and to reveal them, the caterpillar digests itself, releasing enzymes to dissolve all of its tissues. 

For a time, inside the chrysalis, nothing exists except caterpillar soup, an untidy mess, mostly without organization or form. From this chaos, the Universe guides the cells to reorganize, until eventually the soft, wet butterfly is ready to awaken, and emerge into it’s new life. 

Credit: pixabay

The chrysalis does not simply pop open to let the butterfly take flight.  The weak, fragile creature inside is not strong enough to survive, let alone take flight.  So, after surviving the complete destruction of what it previously was, the new butterfly must now struggle to gain strength and confidence in order to give birth to it’s true potential and fly.

Let the Butterfly Struggle

At this stage, when the butterfly is struggling to leave the outdated chrysalis behind, observers might be tempted to help the creature, in their excitement to observe what they know will be a wondrous beauty.  But we need to trust the process.  The process can be painfully slow sometimes, but to release it before it’s ready is to weaken the muscles it needs to develop if it’s ever going to take flight.  The butterfly must struggle to release itself from the chrysalis in order to strengthen it’s wings and fulfill it’s potential.  

We are all butterflies!

In order to live our fullest potential, we must intentionally dissolve the parts of ourselves that are outdated, or no longer beneficial, while integrating the wisdom we gained from them, in order to give birth to a more beautiful version of ourselves.  This process takes courage and it takes faith.  

In darkness I must un-become everything that I am so I may become what I am meant to be.

Without struggles to strengthen our wings (faith) we never gain confidence to fly.  Butterflies who cannot fly are not living their potential, and die without having fulfilled it.

Let your children be butterflies!

We must let our kids struggle.  If we bend over backwards to make sure they don’t fail, we’re not setting them up to succeed.  If we take away their chance to struggle, they have no way to grow confident,
and can become worried, anxious and self-doubtful.  They may even attempt to find their own path, but when they see us jump in at the first sign of struggle, they get the message that even their parents don’t trust them, that struggle is “bad” and something to be avoided always, rather than a normal part of human life from which we learn and grow.

They see us not trust them to try.  They see us not trust them to overcome adversity.  They begin to see themselves as incapable.  Letting them struggle is not harsh or cruel, it shows faith in the process.  It empowers them and strengthens their confidence.

Knowing our parents will support us no matter what is comforting.  Knowing we can succeed on our own and triumph over adversity is crucial. Wanting to protect our children from harm is normal! Choosing to protect them from struggle diminishes their chances of fulfilling their potential.

A parent’s job is not to prevent children from failing.  A parent’s job is to be there for them when things don’t turn out as they had hoped, show them how to find the learning opportunity, and to use that wisdom to grow forward and inform future choices.

In Glennon Doyle’s new book, Untamed, she says, “I am here to keep becoming truer, more beautiful versions of myself again and again forever.”

This resonates so deeply for me!

In order to do this, we must trust the process of transformation.  Everything we need to become our next more beautiful version is inside us now, like the caterpillar’s future wings.

Our job, like the caterpillar, is to dissolve the parts of ourselves, our community, our culture, that no longer serve us, reveal our individual and collective divine beauty, step into our full potential, and fucking fly.

Grow on!

What aspect of yourself have you been holding onto that no longer serves your wellbeing?
How willing are you to allow that aspect to dissolve now?
How will you transform that energy?
What will you use that energy to manifest?
What’s holding you back?

The Importance of Being Self-Centered

Does self-care seem indulgent or selfish right now? 

Do you feel like you can’t take a break, ask yourself what you need, and then give that to yourself?  Does thinking of your own needs NOW make you a bad person?  No!  No it does not.

Most of us are feeling rage, or fear, or sadness, or shock or all of the above about the events happening in our world.  These emotions are catabolic and drain our energy.  They increase our stress levels, release cortisol that depletes our adrenals, and exhaust our physical apparatus.  How much good can we do if we show up to protest feeling hungry, tired, or overwhelmed?

Self-care is NOT indulgent.  Self care is CRUCIAL if you expect to help, uplift, or protect anyone – especially yourself!

The world NEEDS all of it’s warrior spirits right now!  

The time is here to stand up for what you believe in – which is altogether DIFFERENT than pushing against what you do not want – and you cannot stand for something if you are too exhausted to stand!

PLEASE do whatever you feel called to do, whatever you feel capable of doing to support our brothers and sisters of color, but please remember to take care of you first.  You will be a far more effective ally if your energy is fully engaged.

You are as deserving of love and care as the people you want to support and uplift.  And you will be a far more effective advocate for change if you feel positive and powerful instead of drug-out or depleted.

Here is a short list of options for self-care
adapted from Ana Verzone’s Freedom School:

▪ Learn to say “no.”
▪ Develop a relaxing evening ritual.
▪ Allow yourself to feel and express all of your emotions
▪ Bring you into the present moment.
▪ Create art as a form of anxiety and/or stress release.
▪ Remind yourself of the good stuff in life by writing a gratitude list.
▪ Stop being your harshest critic. Allow yourself to make mistakes.
▪ Do some stretching exercises.
▪ Take a walk.
▪ Drink more water.
▪ Go out and spend 10 minutes under the sun.
▪ Go for a bike ride to nowhere in particular.
▪ Spend time in nature.
▪ Go to bed early.
▪ Avoid toxic people.
▪ Ask for help. Let people know you need some help.
▪ Call a trusted friend or family member and talk things out.
▪ Schedule a date night with yourself.
▪ Limit the time you spend on news/social media.
▪ Make time for meditation.
▪ Do a body scan, and check in with each part of your body.
▪ Do something nice for someone in secret.
▪ Donate money to a charity of your choosing.
▪ Spend time intentionally raising your vibration.

Pick ones that appeal to you.  Support & strengthen yourself first.  Then get out there and do whatever your spirit is being called to do!

I am offering two free coaching sessions to anyone wanting coaching right now! Coaching is what I am good at, and it’s what I can do to help after I recharge my own batteries! Please email me if you would like some help being at your best during challenging times!

The Present is a Gift

Be present.  We hear this term everywhere it seems, but what does it mean to “be present”?  Why is it so important?

Being present seems like a simple concept.  We are physically present wherever we stand.  But we’re talking about being mentally and emotionally in the here and now.  That’s a little trickier for most of us.

Humans spend a vast amount of our time reflecting on the past or wondering about the future.  If we’re reveling in a wonderful memory, or excited about an upcoming occasion, then that tiny bit of time travel is beneficial, lifts our spirits, raises our vibration, and attracts MORE of the same kind of energy to us.

However, most of the time when we focus on the past, we focus on memories that bring guilt, regret, shame, or embarrassment.  And often when we focus on our future, it’s the unknown we focus on which brings emotions like worry, anxiety, or doubt, which benefit no one.  It drains our energy, lowers our vibration, and attracts MORE of the same kind of energy to us!

When we are focused fully in the present moment, we cannot simultaneously experience guilt, regret, shame, embarrassment, worry, anxiety, or doubt.  Since all of these emotions are energy drains, it stands to reason that we have more energy when we are fully present.  The gifts of being present are absence of negative emotions, and having more energy to spend on what’s important to you.

Now is powerful.

We cannot take action from the past, nor from the future.  The only place we have to act is now.  Clients often tell me they can’t seem to get anything done, but they come to realize that they are often not being present, and are therefore unavailable to take action.  We lose a lot of time being in the past or future, instead of taking action in our powerful NOW.

So, how do we be here now?

Here’s a simple exercise that can easily guide you to the present moment when you find yourself wandering in time.

Take a deep cleansing breath. (Hell, take two or three, they’re FREE!)
One at a time, take stock of your five basic senses.
Sitting quietly, note just one or two things that you can sense with each.

Here are my examples for this moment in time:

Smell – I smell jasmine flowers and coffee.
Taste – I taste toothpaste.
Touch – I feel the chair beneath me, and the floor under my feet.
Hearing – I hear a clock ticking.
Sight – I see sunlight streaming in the window, and the dog lying in the sun.

Notice how the exercise immediately brings you into the now.

Whenever you catch yourself in your head living from the past or into the future in a way that is not beneficial, you can instantly improve how you feel by checking in with your five senses and being present in the moment.

Grow on!

How often are you in the present moment?
What have you been missing while not being present?
What will change for you when you are more present?
What difference do you notice in your tension/stress levels before and after the above exercise?