Black Lives Matter, CoachBrain

Juneteenth: What’s My Part?

Me: This is my first time really celebrating and honoring Juneteenth

Spirit Self: Nice! Finally! Way to go! Thanks, 2020!

Shadow Self: Excuse me? Juneteenth is a questionable thing to celebrate, because it’s another demonstration of the continuing delay in the end of slavery.

Me: You’re right – it’s not the final satisfying iteration of the best that the world could offer.

Shadow Self: And you’re stepping into Black Lives Matter…only now? After how many state-sponsored murders?!

Me: You’re right – I’m a new-ish addition to the marathon team.

Shadow Self: Wait…Who the hell are you to participate!? You’re not even Black. 

Me: You’re right – I am biracial (Filipino & Polish-ish), identify as brown-skinned, and grew up in a white suburb with white culture and plenty of white privilege…And perhaps even because I’m not Black, it’s even more important that I’m claiming this. I have a responsibility to take it up, even if I don’t do it perfectly. My Black friends are tired, and I am one of the many answering the call to demand that society start to demonstrate that their lives really do matter.

Shadow Self: So what do you care about? Are you here to benefit from the trending or attention? 

Me: I mean, yes, MY attention is captured, but no, that’s not the ultimate reason that I’m here. This matters to me. Black Lives Matter, Racial Equality, Justice, becoming an ally and an accomplice and a good ancestor – I care about this. I know it’s not up to me ALONE. But if this matters to me, don’t I need to do something? I’ve done more learning about Black history as it relates to the United States in the last few weeks than ever in my life – even when I was doing and teaching Black dances. I bring up race on purpose in mixed meetings that are mostly white. I am working out my personal and partnered accountability to an antiracism plan with my white spouse. I don’t think I can solve this, but I’m in action.

Shadow Self: So what? This isn’t about you. You’re late to the conversation. Buckle down, strap up, stay quiet, keep doing your work, and please don’t make it a thing.

Me: You’re right – in one sense, it really ISN’T about me. But it DOES affect me. When Black and Brown people are still treated as less than human, by a system that I pay taxes to, that diminishes me. I know the world and the stories of its people and its circumstances are expansive beyond what I think my human brain can fully grok. I’ll keep reading, listening, watching, digesting, LEARNING. Let my eyes and my heart be opened. Let my words be informed by my new awareness. Let my actions then be informed by my words. And I’ll remember that this isn’t about me; it is beyond me. It is about me finally recognizing the pain and humanity of people who I have other-ed.

And in another way, it totally IS about me. Because “this” [gestures wildly at a vision of changing the world] can’t happen WITHOUT me. It can’t happen unless I am willing to look inside and get disrupted, get uncomfortable, and grow. ME. 

Shadow Self: So self-important.

Me: You’re right – stepping away from that ego-view is still something I clearly wrestle with.

Shadow Self: And in yet another sense…the world can and will change without you OR your permission. So if you’re not ready to do inner work now, you could go ahead and check out, be a late adopter. 

Me: There’s always a consequence, an effect, for choosing or not choosing, and when. I’m pretty late to the game in a lot of ways, but at least I don’t want to be any later.

Spirit Self: It’s not ALL about you. But it necessarily INCLUDES you. You are contributing energy and intention, whether consciously or unconsciously. What do you intend?

Shadow Self: What does it matter what you intend if you’re going to keep causing harm anyway? Good intentions don’t excuse poor outcomes. 

Spirit Self: Focus on the opportunity, now. So what are you doing, anyway? Even here, and now, today? And to what end? 

Me: I’m putting something that matters deeply to me into words, and sharing it purposefully and publicly with people. I’m opening myself to listen. I’m consuming ad sharing art that people are making about it (Sideshow Theater hosting a Liberation Fundraiser screening of Tilikum, benefiting #LetUsBreathe Collective; Pole Sport Organization and Black Girls Pole #AmplifyMelanatedVoices pole showcase benefiting Color Of Change) and donating to the causes. I’m reading a Langston Hughes poem to my chosen family and having a systems discussion and brainstorm about abolishing the police. I’m pondering and sharing Emmanuel Acho’s Youtube videos. I’m going to my front porch to wave on the parade of drivers on their way to a rally downtown. I’m celebrating Juneteenth on purpose, with more awareness than ever, and committing to the work in a new way.

Social/Emotional Intelligence Cue

When someone says “this isn’t about you” (or anything that piques your white fragility), look and listen for ways you can expand your awareness to include more of your surroundings. Ask questions: what is it about, through their eyes? Listen with the intent to understand. Someone is seeing something that they don’t think you see. Try! Take responsibility for the impact of your ignorance. Maybe you can catch the concept in the moment, maybe you need more scaffolding later with another ally or with your own education efforts. It may not be about ONLY you, but it is an opportunity to step up. And what you do/don’t do, say/don’t say, choose/don’t choose… it ALL makes a difference. 

You have a part to play. In what role have you historically been cast? What role would you choose for yourself now? How does that person learn, grow, react, transform? What vision do you hold for yourself on this growing edge of the world?

Play your part. Do your part. Be/become your part.

The next time you get reminded that “it’s not about you,” consider this: It’s not completely about you – and yet, I hope you find yourself completely invited – drawn, compelled, demanded – to join the dance in a responsible and constructive way. Pay attention to your reactions. Don’t pass this off to someone else. Because your part does matter. Your part is about you, and also about those who you will influence.

CoachBrain

Knock, Knock: The Importance of Noticing

Becoming Your Best, Step One: Notice

Many of us miss out on the importance of noticing our world. How many things do we ignore when there’s not a “problem?” And what if there’s a problem, but it’s not that big of a deal and we can deal with it later? Things that we call problems can take up a large portion of our attention, along with the urge is to solve it. Scratch the itch. Patch the leak. Ease the pain. 

On the path to Becoming Your Best, however, we’ll need to notice a little deeper than that – because it’s about optimization. We’re not talking about surviving here – we’re talking about thriving – deep, full-bodied, open-hearted living. Even flitting from pleasure to pleasure gets a little empty after awhile. So I invite you to Be the Cause of your Being in Step One: from Non-Awareness to Noticing. Further, I invite you to deepen your noticing – from Passive to Present to Purposeful. 

What’s the big deal about intentional noticing?

Before we take on anything new or different, even if it’s supposed to be wildly good for us, we want to imagine the effect on the systems that already exist. No matter how brilliant or seemingly universal a solution or system may look, it doesn’t operate in a vacuum. Every person has their own considerations, and therefore their own path.

You would be appalled if a doctor prescribed any medication or recommended surgery without a thorough examination, analysis, and diagnosis – let alone the knowledge of any side effects or contraindications. Doctors are also keenly aware that if they miss the mark, the impact of “malpractice” is a very big deal. We also have punishments in the business world for “false advertising.” We’re probably not going to be sued as individuals for ordering an unsatisfying dish, or being in a toxic relationship too long, or missing our life’s purpose for a decade. But the effect of routinely dismissing the notifications, or numbing the pain, or dulling the sensation, or snoozing the alarms, is that we miss our maximum capacity for life.

Take the difference between school-as-factory (everybody receives the same thing, the same way) and differentiated learning (every student is an individual and receives what they need), and even the leap from there to a collaborative environment that helps each student discover how they learn best and supports them pursuing their interests (ie the Montessori model). Could we treat ourselves so generously? What would happen if we were really willing to learn about what is going on right now in our experience of the world, and get in touch with our heart’s desires in a deeper and more genuine way?

Limitations: Noticing, while important, is not a magic pill.

  • It only works in the present. Past evaluations may or may not be valid. It’s never one-and-done. It’s continual. So while you may want to congratulate yourself for compassionately appraising how your mother triggered you this time, it’s not a good idea to rest on your laurels and excuse yourself from the table with a blanket statement about what kind of relationship you have with her. Count on people and circumstances to evolve.
  • If you’re looking for something, you’re more likely to find it. Confirmation bias is real. Focus or fixate on something and you’ll see it everywhere. Even when you think you’re noticing casually, you take an active part in creating your environment based on what you tend to see.
  • Assessments can only measure what they’re designed to measure. A well-designed tool for noticing can really help – as long as it lines up with what you care about noticing. Learning your Hogwarts house won’t help you learn your love language – and neither piece of information will necessarily tell you what went wrong in your last relationship. This doesn’t prevent you from drawing conclusions from a misapplication of an assessment – so use care when you pick what tools to use. Decide what you care about noticing – which is already something to notice.
  • All the noticing in the world does not produce results alone. I’m highlighting the importance of noticing as a first step, but it’s not everything.

How To Practice Noticing?

Here are some ideas to start moving along the scale from Non-awareness to Noticing.

Importance of Noticing: Concrete Practice Ideas

  • Perform a body scan: 
    • tune in to each part separately (top to bottom) and the whole
    • include your vitals – quality of breath, heart rate, temperature, perceived tension, etc.
  • Complete an audit:
    • Thoughts: observe what you are thinking.
    • Emotions: take stock of your feelings, moods, and attitudes.
    • Behaviors: what are you doing? What have you been doing?
    • Relationships: what are the gifts and challenges of relationships in your life?
    • Values: what has been important to you lately?
    • Resistance: what have you been resisting lately?
    • Wants & needs: how do you want or need to be cared for?
    • Deep desires & yearnings: what are the bigger movements of your life geared toward?
  • Tune in to your environment:
    • Sounds
    • Sights
    • Sensations

This is a case for continuing your education – to continually and liberally apply your observational skills to your brilliant and beautiful experience, such that you may cultivate a wild and rich garden that produces many fruits in your world and the world of others.

Notice & Zoom: a final note

I believe that we are each a human fractal. If it’s true that “how we show up anywhere is how we show up everywhere,” then we can zoom out or in and ask relevant, useful questions about what we discover. If something is pinging you on a small scale – an irritating sensation, a sudden pleasure – you can ask what it’s about. While it could be true that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, it could also be true that there is some symptom or sign that there is a bigger fish to fry than we had been aware of.

Vice versa: if there is some huge change or shift going on in our world – career change, health event – it could be important to pay attention to how many levels of our experience it is affecting. We might even notice a pattern of behavior – conflict avoidance, neglect of self-care – and find that it’s illuminating to zoom both in and out, to see how it’s affecting our inner world and our outer environment.

Carry on, and happy Noticing!

You can see the previous steps in my 5-part series on Becoming Your Best here: Overview & Step Zero.

Becoming Your Best, Being, CoachBrain, Life Coach, Mindset

Selfscaping: How to Enjoy Change

Step Zero in Becoming Your Best:

Overall Mindset Shift From “At The Effect” To “Be The Cause”

I don’t think it’s too radical to say that everyone wants to have a great life. And in our society, many of us desire active participation in our own wild success story. This is what I mean when I invite you to choose to “Be The Cause” of your great life. (If you want greatness to “happen to you,” that is, to allow circumstantial dice to be rolled, and be “At The Effect” of your environment, this article may not be for you.) As a life coach, I believe that every person is not only capable of having a great life, but also has the power to be responsible for how it goes. This article is an invitation to look inward and claim your responsibility – do some trimming of your inner landscape (selfscaping) – which will then impact how it goes outwardly.

Everyone has their triggers. [My current working definition of a trigger is something that shows up in your environment that causes an unconscious response. Often, this response is related to something that has been repressed, avoided, or seems unsavory to the person experiencing it.] The moments when we are triggered are the moments when we give up our agency to our circumstances, and it can be a struggle to get back. In those moments, we are “At The Effect” of our situation. And to be clear, there is nothing wrong or bad about being triggered. But what if you could change your mind about what was happening, and enjoy that change?

Selfscaping, pole dancer, pole dancing, splits, flexibility, comfort zone, possibility, Becoming Your Best, Becoming My Best, Become My Best, Become Your Best, Mindset Shift, Being, Being Your Best, Being My Best, WonderPlay Coaching, Life Coach, Life Coaching, Creative Coaching
Photo by Maverick Sean Photography at USPDF Pro Finals 2019

Many of us resist change. Humans are creatures of habit. Patterns suit us. The Comfort Zone is, well, comfortable. To Enjoy Change, we need to be open to embracing the unknown, stepping into possibility, and welcoming newness. My invitation to you is to change the spelling: In Joy, Change. If you have resisted shifting into a higher version of yourself, slide a filter on it! Are you willing to be joyful about changing your mind? Maybe it’s joy, or maybe it’s love, or power, or boldness, or satisfaction. What filter of Being could you put on yourself and your life that would lead you to a more wonderful experience? (I am channeling Victory as I write this!) Choose a filter of Being that speaks to you!

Selfscaping, pole dancer, pole dancing, splits, flexibility, comfort zone, possibility, Becoming Your Best, Becoming My Best, Become My Best, Become Your Best, Mindset Shift, Being, Being Your Best, Being My Best, WonderPlay Coaching, Life Coach, Life Coaching, Creative Coaching
Photo by Maverick Sean Photography at USPDF Pro Finals 2019

Now try this with me. Take a breath, and call to mind a recent moment when you were less than yourself. You blew up on someone (or didn’t), had a breakdown (or didn’t), neglected yourself (or others), or any number of things. Get clear on your unconscious thoughts, words, and actions. Invite that filter you chose and see how your experience might have changed. Let your beautiful filter bleed over onto your present self. Now, if you were to encounter the same situation, how would it go differently? What would happen if you took that filter with you for a whole hour – a whole day – a whole week, or longer? Are you willing to try it??

I assert that, to a great extent, how we show up anywhere is how we show up everywhere. If you can acknowledge and redirect your internal selfscape – thoughts, sensations, emotions, your entire BEING – you will be able to do the same with your external words, actions, and interactions with greater facility and grace.

Mindset shifts like this are fleeting; make sure you create or secure sufficient support to maintain your new filter of Being. Journal, create community, read inspiring words, speak affirmations aloud, meditate, hire a coach, join The Creative Level-Up. And stay tuned for the next steps in the series!

Photo by Rachel E H Phototraphy

WonderPlayfully,

Elizabeth

CoachBrain

How To Stop Being A Loser: Pole Competition Edition

I’d like to share one of my three 2019 competitive pole routines. I’m terribly proud of it. (The dancing bit is 90 seconds long. I promise I won’t be mad if you watch it and move on with your day without reading.)

[Video By Maverick Sean Photography. Sponsoring brands included US Pole Dance Federation, Lupit Pole, NY Pole Dancing, Mila Krasna, Nightshade Designs. Song: Be Great by Kevin Ross ft. Chaz French.]

20 reasons in 6 words or less why I’m almost unreasonably proud:

  1. I’d never competed in heels before.
  2. Twisted sister:* secure AND bangin’.
  3. My favorite cocoon** to date.
  4. I came mentally prepared to rock.
  5. I stayed coolly focused all day.
  6. Sharing the stage with pole idols.
  7. Hugely high honor of competition.
  8. I didn’t even qualify last year.
  9. Made it into USPDF Pro Finals!
  10. I was happy to be witnessed.
  11. Modeled tons of sponsored swag.
  12. Kept going after an imperfect trick.***
  13. Adorable unicorn-ish sponsored outfit.
  14. Love how I look: freaking great.
  15. Danced to a song I love.
  16. Powerful self-care before, during, and after.
  17. Feel connected to the art I make.
  18. It felt great in real time.
  19. Amazed at what I can do.
  20. Includes a message I care about.

Fun fact (and the cornerstone of this writing): this routine took dead last in its division, and by a relatively large margin.

Did that make me a loser? Explore with me! Here are my four primary takeaways.

You Get What You Ask For

My housemate Christopher asked me before I departed for New York, what was I hoping to experience at the competition? I responded with Satisfaction and Community (boiled down from many more words).

What everybody else kept asking: was I going to win?

I was always taken aback by this question. Wasn’t it up to the judges? Sure, I *could* have won. And, while it was a high priority for me to have a good showing, I wouldn’t say that I trained like the ultimate champion. If I had decided to win, I posit that I would have trained differently. Made different levels of commitment. (Some say sacrifice; see below.)

What I *did* get to experience was the presence of all the humans backstage. I watched 0.3 performances live, but I got a front row seat to all of the backstage magic. I saw women being compassionate, zoned in, kind to each other, powerful, nervous, hyped, methodical, communal, flexible, balanced, and really giving themselves permission to be WITH each other and themselves. I am so humbled, so honored to count myself among them.

If I got what I came for (satisfaction + a great showing + community), I’ll call it a success.

You Perform What You Practice

Even if it’s 5 minutes of glory, it’s more like 500 hours to prepare. The preparation is where life happens. Much of the elite athlete or performer repertoire is built invisibly, out of the public eye. It’s measured not only in the accuracy but the precision – how reliably can you produce a strong result, even under adverse conditions? The performance is the snapshot – an invitation to see me at this moment, and perhaps imagine everything that came before, everything that got me here.

The way I trained was the way I wanted to – hard and smart. Enough – to see progress and present a piece I was proud of; not too much – to be overtired, overtrained, injured, or discouraged. I walked out of every practice session pleased, proud, and PUMPED – so it would certainly follow that my performance would be similar. I made this experience into a deep individual commitment, and I chose it consciously.

Your Mindset Matters

I call myself a recovering perfectionist. I already know the heartbreak of beating myself up and kicking myself for not being “perfect.”

I came to kick ass in general, not kick my own ass.

I came to “leave it all on the field” (a la high school marching band), not bring regrets home.

The deep knowing that I am worthy and loved – not because of my dancing or my style or my level or my courage, but regardless of it – is freaking revolutionary.

Society would say, how dare I believe that I am enough? Yeah, I know I do pretty cool things. I get to be a badass, physically and artistically. Am I the best badass? Survey says, not this year, not that stage. Does it wreck me? No thanks. In coach parlance, I would say “I am complete” – I have no extraneous emotional energy about this experience; no resentments or grudges. Would I like to go back and win someday? Sure, winning is fun! Is it a mega priority to win? Not particularly. Am I allowed to compete if my priority isn’t to win? Why, yes. I know I’m here to learn and grow, to be challenged and evaluated – and none of these is a measure of Who I Am. Lately, I choose to compete in order to stretch and grow beyond what I could do before – to push my own envelope in this community that I adore.

We are so accustomed to measuring our life quantitatively and competitively. It feels revolutionary to measure our experience qualitatively, but it needn’t be unusual. Practice boldly with me, won’t you? It feels easy to be dissatisfied and complain. I dare you to be unreasonably pleased with your life. You know the distinction between Being Enough and Being Satisfied versus appearing that way. What if everything is Perfect? Double dog dare you to say it out loud and adopt it.

You Always Get To Choose

I could choose embarrassment and shame. Instead, I choose empowerment and expression.

It’s easy to talk about (and judge) choices that “past you” made. (Hint: that’s still a choice.)

Could I have chosen to train more like a champion? More hours/reps in? Hired a coach? Yep.
What I chose instead was a balance of training that worked for my lifestyle – which I also chose.

Then there’s present choices.

Could I choose to be dissatisfied and demoralized? Throw a big-deal tantrum? Of course. Could I choose instead to be satisfied with (or heaven forbid, proud of) a last-place finish? Celebrate with the beautiful humans who made stunning art and won extra swag? You betcha. Is it possible that any of my co-competitors performed brilliantly, placed much higher, and chose to experience disgruntled-ness? Sure. Could they (or I or anyone) choose anew in the next moment? Yeah!

Which brings us to future choices – aka, commitments. Opportunities to align yourself with what you say matters.

Will it take practice to silence the Censor and spread Love on the ego-wounded part of me that is so accustomed to being Not Good Enough – so much so that it disguises its self-consciousness by always trying to Be The Best? Oh yeah. Will it be hard to choose from Love sometimes? Anything new and unpracticed could disguise itself as hard. Will it be worth it? Every moment – if you say so. Commit to asking: when you allow yourself to expand into the greatness of Courage, Love, Expression, Power – what else becomes possible?

The ultimate message is a growth out of the very song I elected to dance to. The question in the song is, “Do You Wanna Be Great?” I would take out the “want” (ie Conversations With God teaches that declaring “want” creates the experience of wanting, not having) and re-state:Do You. Be Great.

PostScript: A Reverse Case Study

My dance partner Curtis and I once entered a Blues dance choreography competition and decided before we had set a single step that we were going to win. Well, what do you know – we won. (Different future blog post? Or the opposite-ly manifested version of the same blog post?) We practiced with an eye always toward victory, and I believe we manifested that. Choose your lesson from the list above, and please share what else you see.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

So what did YOU come for? What is the highest expression of your Life, your Learning, and your Gifts? What are your stories of how you stopped “Being A Loser” and stepped into greatness?

winning, mindset, life coaching, victory, creativity, dance, pole dance, competition, power, grace

Footnote: Starred Pole Lingo

  • Left: #2, Twisted Sister. Splitting and hand grip for dear life.
  • Right: #3, Cocoon. Backbending-ly spectacular.
  • #12: Timestamp 0:43-0:47, Reverse Grab to a Shoulder Mount. Not perfectly executed, but completed.