Being, Life Coach, Pole Dance, Presence, WonderPlay Coaching

Five Lessons from My Eagle

Content Advisory: This is (another) pole dance heavy post, centered around my personal journey.

I am approaching the final competition in my season (Pole Theatre USA in Atlanta!), and upon reflection, I was struck by the fact that the delicious lessons I’ve learned from my eagle are majorly applicable to coaching. Hence, blog post.
To clarify, when I say “Eagle,” I’m not talking about the feathery one. It’s this one, where the Instagram hashtag is #pdeagle. (“pd” is for “pole dancing” for the uninitiated.) This is my very first one, and my teacher (taking this photo in the background) had to sort of shove my foot into my hands.

I had unconsciously applied this formula in a few previous competition seasons with great success, and I am inspired to share what I’ve taken away from that.

Lesson #1: Decide you want it, and believe it’s possible.

Not always the easiest part, but I certainly think it’s the most important part. In Think and Grow Rich, which I’m reading with my book club right now, this is the equivalent to the part where you “fix in your mind a burning desire.” I definitely decided what technical skill I wanted to present this season, and so I created the structure I would need to make it so. Deciding to have something is the beginning of making it yours. Would my husband and I have created 2 months of 2018 in Costa Rica if we hadn’t determined we would do it? Certainly not the same way. It got to be ours because we chose it on purpose.

Lesson #2: Ask for (and receive) help & support.

This is where a coach of any kind could come in. I definitely had to ask for specific instruction and assistance for the very first execution of the shape, as well as several future iterations. I got great feedback from pro dancers and instructors (Lara Michaels at Body and Pole and David C. Owen at Catalyst Movement Arts, my home studio, among others. This is especially useful after Lesson #1 because otherwise, I might not know what to ask for. When someone knows what you’re working on, they can give more direct and specific feedback. I had the opportunity to practice being open to instruction and growth, and also discovering what works for me (because, spoiler alert: not everything works for everyone).

Lesson #3: Balance patience and determination.

(In other words, be careful…but not too careful.)

Growth of many kinds takes time. In the physical realm of my art and sport, one aspect I’ve focused on a lot is the time and attention to training flexibility – time for the muscles to open, time for the tissues to expand. This takes Patience. This is applicable in the microcosm of a single moment, and over a whole season, even a whole lifetime. Staying in a stretched shape beyond your “norm” for even a single breath might be your limit one day. Enter Determination, so that you do more and more reps of moving into that stretched shape until you can take two breaths…until such point as you are sufficiently comfy there that it’s simply part of your body’s vocabulary. You need to spend time in a position to gain comfort there. Not that you won’t be uncomfortable in the process… How similar to any other Comfort Zone! You might only step out once, feel a little ping of discomfort, and venture back inside where it’s safe. But what could be possible if you push yourself to go there again? Anyone who has ever seriously trained in anything has gained awareness about how much discomfort is required to make changes. Growth is literally going beyond where you were before, occupying a new space. It’s going to feel different. And you need to listen and trust yourself so that you are consistent with the application of your efforts, but don’t overdo it to the point of your detriment. Acknowledge the thoughts and sensations that you experience, and decide where to put your trust. This goes back to Lesson #2: Do you need a kick in the pants, and so need someone else to provide some incentive to get the job done (like a coach or a trainer)? Would that person push you farther than you would push yourself? Do you trust that person NOT to push you TOO far? Or, do you tend to be overzealous for yourself and need help to slow down? Could you use some support in taking time off, or to be patient and gentle with yourself? Everything has its place and time.

As one of my pole idols, Heidi Coker, taught me at the final North American Pole Dance Championships this year, there are three kinds of discomfort.

1. Pain – this is hurting me and causing me damage,

2. Discomfort – this doesn’t feel super great, but is not harming me, and

3. New – this is a sensation I have not felt before, and I am unaccustomed to it.

As another one of my pole idols, Natasha Wang, put it in her workshop at the same event, “Soreness is not an injury.” It is, however, a state of being that requires attention and care so that you can not only avoid undesirable effects (injury) and create the changes you want to see (improvement in functionality, strength, mobility, balance, etc. – see Lesson #1).

Lesson #4: Do the work.

There is no substitute. Whether it’s the discipline to form a new shape or a new habit, to own something, you have to be willing to be responsible for it. Only you will be able to say what process you will choose…but any new product will take a new process. If your results matter to you (see Lesson #1), then this part doesn’t have to be hard.

Lesson #5: Celebrate!

With permission by the inimitable Leen Isabel at poledancingadventures.com

Did you get to create the results you were after? BETTER CELEBRATE THAT! Even (and especially) if the end looks different than how you might have first imagined it. Can you come to yourself with appreciation and gratitude for your learning? Can you see yourself as the magnificent creature you are, growing and shifting and evolving? Can you be complete with how it went this time (however it went), and exercise the courage to powerfully choose what’s next for you, again? I assert that it’s a practice, and it’s worth it.

And with these five things in place, may your personal Eagle also fly!
Let me know your thoughts.

 

What lessons or gifts have you taken away from a long journey?

What next goals thrill you?

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Being, Life Coach, Mindset, Presence, WonderPlay Coaching

Snapshot of a Solopreneur

I’m writing about entrepreneurship (in my case, solopreneurship) today, in all of its gory glory. I find that I’ve hesitated to share these thoughts publicly, because my story seems unfinished to me. I suppose that’s a good thing, because my story will continue after this! But it’s more than that. I’m not the poster child of a “successful entrepreneur” – at least not yet. “Struggling entrepreneur” or “surviving entrepreneur” seems to be a better fit right now. I don’t see myself as having “that success story of a six-figure work-from-anywhere winner” that will inspire people to quit their 9-to-5s. I do get to live an ignited life full of passion for what I do every day – and I’ll be the first to point out that that alone does not generate income.

Why share NOW, then, when my career change isn’t neatly wrapped up with a pretty bow?

One of my friends said it well – when we share (ok, sometimes more like admit) our challenges to each other, we humanize ourselves. And as I said to my coach this week, this is perhaps the best time to share. I can demonstrate to all of my entrepreneur clients that I get it. I hear them talk about things that seem insurmountable, and I get it because I have been there. By sharing, I get to appreciate the life I’m living in such a glorious and messy way. By sharing, I am demonstrating that no matter how “super” the superhuman you admire in your life, they still cast a shadow.

And so, I share this snapshot of this moment with you, via advice that I would give to my one-year ago self about switching entrepreneurial careers.

Who thought there would be a climbing area OR this mini-mall made of shipping containers in Costa Rica?
Photo credit Ryan Alan Jones

1. It almost certainly will not go as you expect.

Some of the things you are afraid of will simply not happen. Plenty of things will happen that you didn’t plan for or anticipate. Resources within and without will pop up in the least likely of places and times. Roll with it and keep leveling yourself up. You will discover wisdoms and truisms at which you will think, “if I had known that when I started…!” – but you might not have believed it at the time, either. We get every lesson from the Universe at the divinely perfect time, and it may not be when we wish it was, but it will be at the time we can receive it.
This is like a personal ad…to the universe at large…that I literally made in glitter glue on cardstock.
It’s hanging next to my desk. I hope that it shows you just what kind of person I am.

2. Be Your Unicorn!

If nothing else, practice being with your own strengths. Everyone has their own specifications for failure and success, or even challenge. Identify what you have that is uniquely yours! I’m choosing to measure my life by my own standards – and that includes seeing, witnessing, sharing, and Being With all of my own greatness. It has been a hard-won lesson that adding my brilliance to the world simply begets more brilliance – nobody is objectively outshone or obscured. In fact, the best gift I can give the world – the way I can be of the most service – is to fully embody and lean into my Qualities. All of them. (Hint from the shadow work I’ve been doing (book linked in the resources): even “unattractive” qualities are still gifts, perhaps only with the volume turned up too loud. Find the gift and embrace it.) Comparison can be invigorating and debilitating in equal turns – be aware! Only you can bring your particular brand of sparkle & hair flip, or warmth & comfort, or brightness & badassery. Nobody else can do that job – it’s yours, forever! Plus, only by being your own unicorn can you attract your unicorn group (tribe? flock? herd?) – whether they will be customers/clients, colleagues, cheerleaders, or anything else.

Tree pose, alias Vrksasana, with The Sacred Circus, featuring a Costa Rican beach sunset.
Photo credit Adeoye Mabogunje

3. Trust your gut / wisdom / spirit / intuition… and distinguish between that and the Gremlin that will keep you small and safe.


Listen to your body’s cues, and you will find what a wealth of wisdom you have access to. Not sure whether your innermost wisdom or your Gremlin is doing the talking? Do some journaling, meditating – get quiet, and pay attention. If you have a friend, colleague, or coach who will reliably reflect what they see to you, sure, seek out their opinion – but don’t disregard your own. Do you believe you have everything you need? Great – let that be sufficient…until it’s not, and you discover that you need something different, and then get that need met.
Imagine being inside of a seed that contains all of the information necessary to grow a mighty tree. It’s cozy, warm, and safe. But it’s also not the ultimate expression of what that seed is meant to be. It waits until conditions are just right, and then breaks out of the safety of the seed to Root into the Earth and Sprout into the Sky. And as it grows, it cannot know its own final expression. It will simply keep growing as long as the nutrients are present and the conditions are right, coming into harmony with all around it. There will be seasons of wealth and abundance, and also of drought and damage. And it, like the rest of us, will keep living the best life it can. After all, who’s to say that we don’t need the adversity as much as the ease? One of the human body’s natural responses to repeated stress is to strengthen and adjust. This is how muscles grow and bones form their torsion. (I learned almost everything I academically know about anatomy from Paul Grilley and David Kiel in my Yoga Teacher Training with Sacred Paths Yoga. Video links on their names, and further resources listed at the end.)
This is the type of accidental selfie that happens between reps at my pole studio.
Note the face: whatever just happened was decidedly NOT the desired finished product.
“Whelp, better do THAT again.”

4. Let it be okay that it’s hard or unpretty sometimes.

Did I make declarations about growth milestones for my business? Yes! Did I meet them all? Of course not! Have I been broke during this process? Most certainly yes! Have my thwarted expectations caused challenge and or friction in my marriage? You bet! Are we still ok and figuring it out? Totally! Have I stayed in bed frozen in fear instead of going and being with my friends? Sure! And on and on. The thing is, none of it is bad or wrong. I’m learning to make friends with failure. I learn, grow, make mistakes, and move ahead. I like to think of choosing from practice, rather than performance or perfection. My academic youth was all the way lived in the land of the A+, to the point that I wept in fear at the first B on my report card. Each step I’ve taken farther away from performance or perfection has been such a relief – I get to learn from every experience I create, even and especially when things get weird and funky.

About half of my crew from my training at Accomplishment Coaching got together for a mini-reunion last month.
These guys have supported me through some gigantic transformations and breakthroughs, let me tell YOU.

5. You don’t have to do it alone.


Solopreneurship doesn’t necessitate giving up on all of your support networks. In fact, it might be a way to facilitate leaning on them as much or more. Declare what you need, find what works for you, and discard what doesn’t. There are innumerable human resources out there that you already have access to – not to mention that in many cases, somebody has probably written a book about the thing you want to know (or recorded a podcast, or a web series, or a documentary, or, or…). This comes with a caution – don’t hide so completely behind the guise of training/experience/learning/reading/listening that you never actually DO the thing. Left to my own devices, I experience plenty of “analysis paralysis” (that’s a Jenny Blake-ism; her book is on the resource list below). You’re not alone, even when it seems like it – “you will be found.”

A thoughtful posture in the moments before leading a workshop on our Total Wellness Retreat in Costa Rica.
Not every moment seems equally “presentable,” or else why do we go through so many options to pick the “perfect” pic?
Photo credit Adeoye Mabogunje

6. This moment is only this moment.


What a syllogism that is! Any snapshot of who you are and where you are at a particular moment is simply not indicative of where you’re headed. It may not even give it clear representation about where you’ve been. Make no mistake, we are the sum of our experiences, perhaps even from past lives. So be sure to acknowledge yourself and your progress as you go! Only you can really tell how far you’ve come and what you’ve learned on the way. Any moment, no matter how seemingly great (the trophy, A+, win, deed, title, promotion, achievement) or dismal (the loss, hurt, fear, paralysis, broke-ness, isolation, accident) is only the circumstance of this moment – and all things are passing. Alternatively artistically quoted, nothing gold can stay. To go back to the tree analogy, it seems laughably absurd that a tree with leaf buds at the end of its branches would disparage itself for not being in full bloom yet. Or that a sapling is somehow less wonderful than a tree bearing fruit. It’s simply where you are NOW, and it doesn’t need to mean anything more than that. Do you want to grow into a mighty tree? Then, onward! All things in time. I have been practicing meditating more regularly of late at the same time that I’m reading Stranger in a Strange Land, and so I take to heart that “Waiting is.

Upon reflection, I could have written this blog post about any self-actualization process: learning and honing a new skill, coming of age, a personal or institutional revolution…


There is much more. There is always much more. And ain’t it great? I am the heroine of my own life, as you are the protagonist of yours, and we will access more wealth of experience than we could ever share with anyone else. Thank you, human, for sharing this with me, and allowing me the space to share with you. Excelsior!

Resources
*certainly not exhaustive; simply things I’m referencing lately, and things that I can identify that have guided some of my thinking thus far


Being, Concert, Gogo Penguin, Life Coaching, Presence, WonderPlay Coaching

Presenting…Presence!

I went to a concert on Friday. I was excited to have a night out with a friend (being social! Not working!), and I was interested to see how this experience would go: this was a band I had barely heard of, but came with the most glowing praise from a friend. I hadn’t planned on working, but I found myself inspired to write on my experience.


The band (Gogo Penguin) was great. Better than great, they were incredible. They were a delicious meal for my musician brain – a stunning flow of energy with incredible creativity and precision. Their individual skill was staggering, and their partnership was seamless. Their exploration of their art and craft was gorgeous and intriguing.


But this is not an essay about a great concert. It is a reflection about all concerts, great and otherwise, and inclusive of other powerful public shares: recitals, plays, speeches, shows, circuses, spectacles, protests, and everything at the huge end of the spectrum – and then on the small end, even conversations.


It boils down to this: it’s about sharing in a shared space. It’s about Presence.


“You had to be there!” Ever heard this? Ever said it? There is something special and beautifully impermanent about gatherings of humans in shared space. This is why the performing arts even exist  – experiencing together is powerful. Even if you go to see a movie or a play by yourself, you are still with everyone else who is in attendance – and now you have had a shared experience with people who are strangers. But now you can say to strangers as you leave the shared space, “wasn’t that something?” Being at that concert, I got to experience the peaks and valleys with people around me – and then afterward, my friend and I stood outside the venue and shared all of the reasons why this concert blew our minds.


I met up with my husband on my way home, and when he asked me how the concert was, I didn’t share nearly as much of the particulars with him as with my friend. Why was that? Well…he just wasn’t there, so it didn’t seem like it would be as meaningful for him to only hear my words about it. If I went home and shared their discography with him later, maybe he could appreciate the art the way I did – but that wouldn’t have made him any more present in the moment of the performance itself. Could I share my experience with him in words? Sure. Would he feel like he had been there? Possibly, if I had all the best words. But even if he felt transported himself, that doesn’t add his energy to the experience of the rest of the folks who were there. Experiencing something yourself, in tandem with community, gives access to to a shared consciousness. And “FOMO” exists for a reason.


Presence can be important for people in other ways. Presence or absence can speak volumes. A single person’s presence or absence can change the entire dynamic of a gathering. And think about how many times you have heard (or expressed) gratitude for someone who was “there” for you. Could I have enjoyed the music just as much in the absence of my friend? Likely, yes. Would I have had an altogether different experience with a different friend? Likely, yes. Would our experience have been shifted if it was a crowd of 5, or 50, or 500, or even 5,000? Would the band have been more or less engaging? It’s hard to say – but it’s not a performance until you have an audience to share the experience with you.


This past weekend, the inspiration was not just the glory of the music. It was, for me, a full room of concertgoers experiencing energy together. We were connected not just in the action of going to the concert, but being at the concert. There is something inescapable and unavoidable about feeling the same energy and appreciation as the person next to you, or being in the midst of a cheering crowd, or being in a lively discussion with like-minded passionate people. It’s that collective gasp when something surprising happens that we witness together, or that pregnant hush in the room at a poignant moment, or a tender sigh about something we find collectively precious.


On one end, this palpable shared energy is the source of mob mentality. I have never personally participated in a mosh pit, for instance, or even crowdsurfing, but it’s certainly a part of a community expression of exuberance, even if it sometimes leads to injury. With a different lens, this shared experience is a source of genuine connection and mutually shared power and celebration. Our collective cheers and applause brought them back for 2 encore numbers. Might they have played the encores even if we hadn’t cheered as enthusiastically? Sure. But what we knew to do, together, was to applaud their work with sufficient fervor to ask them back.


Another expression of Presence comes up for me with simply noticing and Being With all of the parts of a present moment – Being With whatever is happening. At my concert, I had moments of being Present with my body sensations – hearing and feeling the music and the warmth of the audience, sensing through my shoes into the floor, changing my balance as people brushed past me, tasting my drink, seeing the lights shift, smelling the room. I sometimes got really Present with my sense of connection – the musicians with each other in body and sound, the musicians with us as the audience, myself with my friend, and the whole of the audience with each other. In those moments, I’m not looking ahead for what’s next or anywhere but fully immersed in the Present. My colleague, Matt Maxwell, reflected this to me with a sportspuck analogy. Hockey moves so fast, the players simply don’t have time to have their attention anywhere but the present moment. If someone makes a poor pass or misses a shot, you don’t see the players kicking themselves or berating each other. You just see them move on to the next new reality, which may now be that the other team has the puck and they’re on defense. Not everyone plays their sportsball games this way, especially with games that have so much downtime (baseball, football, golf) and with access to instant replays. But performance artists know this: dwell on a past mistake and you might just make the next one.


Lately, in my coaching business, I think of Presence particularly in a professional way. In all of my interactions, it’s not enough for only me to be Present – I need to invite the Presence of others! One of my companies, The Sacred Circus, just finished hosting an event yesterday; WonderPlay Coaching prepares for its next workshop (you can find it on Facebook and Meetup); The Sacred Circus opens registration for The Total Wellness Retreat in Costa Rica in 2018. My other pursuits invite Presence too – my dance partner and I invite folks to our next Blues Dance workshop; my students share their upcoming show. Without attending an event, you can get the digest, or hear how it went, or even study the content — but there is no substitute for your Presence: sharing space-time and mental energy. This applies to personal relationships too: recall your last conversation when your companion mentally checked out – or when you did. Recall the opposite – connecting deeply with someone, being fully related or completely on the same page. Even for yourself – tuning in to what you really want or need is a practice of Presence.

A great irony, isn’t it? – that I write about Presence, but in doing so, all I share with you are my words. So, I write as an invitation to share your Presence with me and with each other.
~~~
How have you observed Presence in your relationships? How do you choose to be Present for yourself and others?