The One Place You'll Get Stuck While Learning Ayurveda

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Hello All,

First thing:  I’m writing another book!  It’s called Selfcarefully and it’s a collaboration with the lovely team at Thick Press and my dear friend Maria Habib (also a brilliant illustrator/designer).  This limited-edition risograph-printed book will hold all the self-care wisdom we’ve gained over the years and show how to use self-care as a lens for all things (from setting boundaries to eating lunch to talking about racism). We are still putting the book together - the process has been slow and fruitful - but we’ll hopefully have something for you to hold in your hands in early 2019, and I’ll be sharing bits and pieces along the way.

(Some of you may be wondering about my first book. Yes, I finished it a while back, but honestly, I still haven’t figured out how to publish it + promote it while raising a toddler and running my self-care coaching programs. I’d love to hear any advice on publishing during a busy phase of life!  I think the book’s message on cultivating leadership through self-care is more important than ever.)

And now today…

Fall is now upon us on the east coast.   I feel this seasonal transition more intensely than any other.  As soon as it gets colder, I go from my late-summer steady, productive energy to feeling scattered and slightly anxious.  My skin starts to crack, my back gets achey and I begin silently counting the days until spring.

Fortunately, learning about self-care, particularly the self-care of Ayurveda, helps me weather this transition with grace.  With practice, I’ve learned to keep my balance steady enough to actually enjoy this seasonal shift from summer to fall (except for the cold feet - I don’t think I’ll ever love those).

I want to share this special seasonal self-care with you.  But while I’d love to just launch into my favorite fall Ayurvedic self-care tips, I know these practices will be so much richer with just a little background in Ayurvedic theory.  

For this, today I’m giving a basic lesson in Ayurveda, and next Wednesday, I’ll be back with all the fall self-care goodness.  

If you’ve never studied Ayurveda, I invite you to keep an open mind.  This ancient science is both very complex and also quite simple. There will be things we can probably never understand, especially as westerners, and concepts that will feel immediately applicable.  One thing I’ve learned about Ayurveda is that you cannot talk too much about the basics. Even though I’ve studied it for years, everytime I hear someone discuss the essential theories and practices, I learn something new.

With our beginner’s mind, let’s dive in!  I’ll begin by sharing basic doshic theory - where all Ayurvedic students must start - and then explain the one place you can get eternally stuck while cultivating your Ayurvedic practice.  

Ayurvedic scriptures (some of which date back more than 5,000 years) teach that the essence of all things is consciousness itself.  This consciousness is formless, timeless and has infinite potential. And from that formless consciousness arises form. (I know this is pretty abstract stuff but stay with me.)

Form is everything that makes up matter.  It’s all the things we can see with our eyes and feel with our hands like mountains, bodies, and cars. It’s also all the things we can’t see and feel like teeny particulars of matter.  

Ayurveda teaches that all this matter is comprised of three different energies called the doshas. Very basically, the doshas are:

Vata:  The energy of air and ether, responsible for the end of things.  The qualities of vata are dry, cold, light, unstable, and fast-moving. Vata brings movement of all kinds.  In our bodies, vata rules our circulation, speech and much of our nervous system function. Seasonally, the energy of vata is strongest during the fall when the world is drying out and getting colder. (I’m going to talk a lot more about this next week).

Pitta:  The energy of fire and water, responsible for the middle part of things. The qualities of pitta are quick, light, hot, oily, and penetrating.  Pitta is our metabolism and other forms of transformation. In our bodies, pitta rules our digestion, not just through our stomachs but also what we mentally consume. We eat in many ways - not just food!  Seasonally, pitta is strongest during the summer when the harvest is growing abundant and the sun shines bright.

Kapha:  The energy of earth and water, responsible for beginnings.  The qualities of kapha are heavy, slow, cold, thick, and stable. Kapha is the most stable of the doshas.  Kapha, which makes up our skeleton, keep us steady and grounded. Seasonally, kapha is strongest during late winter/spring when the snow is melting and we are getting ready to begin planting.

We need all three doshas. To stay balanced, we have to make sure we have enough stability, enough metabolism and enough connected movement. Ayurveda teaches that keeping our balance is natural.  The doshas - these building blocks of life - are meant to stay in balance, both within ourselves and out in the world.

How do we know when we go out of balance?  We feel off and/or we get sick. The longer we stay imbalanced, the harder it is to get back into balance because we actually start to crave the imbalance.  (This is when you can’t get off the couch when you’re feeling depressed or schedule more when you’re already overwhelmed). However, once we find a pretty good balance in ourselves, it’s usually not as hard to maintain it because balance also craves balance. (Yay!)

I hope this is all feeling fairly simple and applicable to your own life.  Ayurveda is just telling us to pay attention to how we feel, and if we feel off, to try to make things feel better.

This brings me to the one thing that can absolutely derail this simplicity.  If you give into it, you can miss learning the full goodness of Ayurveda. And it seems like no one - myself included - can escape it at first.

The place we can get stuck is that everyone wants to discover “their” dosha.

Because yes, it’s true. Ayurveda teaches that each of us has our own makeup of the three doshas within us.  Usually, one of the doshas is predominant, one is secondary and one affects us a little less. (I’ve heard it’s incredibly rare for anyone to be completely tri-doshic).  

This desire to know your dosha is rooted in a lot of the modern Ayurvedic resources out there.  In many books and websites, you are told to take a test, discover your dosha and then care for yourself according to the standard recommendations.  From there, you know all the rules. Pitta-types are told to avoid tomatoes, kaphas need more exercise and vatas should sleep in extra late. Etc etc etc.

These rules are fine, but I’ve found it’s incredibly difficult to discover your actual dosha.  I won’t go into too much detail here, but there are just so many factors that influence your essential dosha, including your stage of life, the season, the time of day, any previous trauma you’ve had in your life.  Figuring it out is so complex!

(A little personal example here.  After years of studying Ayurveda and never quite being sure if I was more vata or more pitta, I finally made it to an Ayurvedic clinic in India.  As soon as I could see him, I asked the doctor, a very learned man, if he could tell me my dosha. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “Pitta? Vata? It’s very hard to tell.”  Honestly, I still don’t know.)

The problem is that when we can’t figure out our dosha, we may get discouraged and stop learning.  Because Ayurveda can feel way too complex in this beginning step, we may think it isn’t for us at all.   

With that, I’m here to say that you can get an amazing amount of self-care knowledge from Ayurveda without knowing your dosha.  Personally, learning this baseline Ayurvedic wisdom has transformed my life and that of my clients, many of whom still don’t know their doshas.

Next week, I’ll go into that knowledge and the very special ways it applies to this time of year.  I can’t wait to share it with you!

Until then, take extra good care of yourself!

XO,
Gracy

Want to Thrive After a Setback? Learn These Four Self-Care Jedi Moves

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Hello Dear,

How are you doing?  It’s been a huge couple of weeks in the news and I’ve been thinking of you all.  Watching the crazytown of the Kavanaugh hearings as we relived a myriad of sexual traumas has been challenging, to say the least.

I want you to hear this.  If you raged when you saw Kavanaugh being ushered onto the Supreme Court without any real accountability or felt grief over the incredible vulnerability of Dr. Ford’s story, you are not alone.  

This week has been an immense loss for many of us.  It’s brought all the difficult emotions - our rage, our grief and our powerlessness - right up to the surface.  Once these emotions come up, it’s almost impossible to tamp them back down. Once we see something, we can’t unsee it.  Shaken and exhausted, we must figure out how to move forward.

Accepting a new reality can feel totally disempowering - it certainly does for me in moments - but I also see that the finality of a decision can offer much-needed relief.  We can finally take a pause from the onslaught of emotional disruption.

However, in order to make the most of the pauses that come after our setbacks, we need to practice a certain kind of self-care.  Practicing intentional self-care after a setback will not only help you personally recover, but it will also help regenerate our collective energies.  Regenerated and cared for, we can keep going in our journey to create a more fair and just society for all.

Over the years, I’ve worked with hundreds of powerful female leaders on their self-care.  I’ve seen these awesome women use intentional self-care to move through some seriously challenging setbacks into unprecedented thriving. This kind of self-care isn’t sexy, but it’s incredible effective. I can’t wait to share it with you!

Here are the tried-and-true self-care Jedi moves that will turn a setback into an opportunity for greatness:

1. Go easy.  Recovering from a setback is not the moment to push yourself in your self-care.  Boot camp classes, sugar detoxes and doing the Whole 30 can definitely be forms of self-care.  However, these willpower-based initiatives take a lot of energy and momentum to execute successfully.  When you are healing from a hard moment in life, it’s not the time to take on completely new way of eating or exercising.  During these stressful times, choosing such strict forms of self-care can actually be a form of masochism, unconsciously done as a way to avoid the tender work of healing.  

As you recover, choose self-care that feels immediately nourishing and easy to implement.  This is the time for epsom salt baths, walks in nature, and watching funny movies. Once you are internally and externally restored, you can decide whether you need to practice a more extreme form of self-care.

2. Recommit to your routines.  Emotionally intense experiences are disruptive. Perhaps you took time away from your normal gym routine to watch the hearings, or missed a few meals because you didn’t feel like eating after you heard about the final vote.  All of this is valid. However, once the dust has settled, you have the choice to continue a haphazard way of going through your days or recommit to your self-care routines. In Ayurveda, the Vedic science of well-being, strong daily routines are not only essential for your physical well-being, they are also vital for your emotional balance.  Anxiety and depression can be triggered when there is too much variability in our days. (Think of toddlers here. They emotionally freak out if they miss a meal or stay up too late. On some level us adults are the same.)

Start with a fairly consistent time to go to bed and wake up in the morning.  Then add in three regular meal times. Give yourself bonus points if you can cook or one two of these meals everyday (yes, scrambled eggs count).  Once these routines feel stable, create a small morning ritual for yourself. Taking three deep breaths upon waking can make a big difference in how you show up for the rest of your day.

3. Find your community.  You are not suffering alone.  No matter what you are feeling, others around you probably feel the same way.  The more you can join with others who are hurting, the more you can use the power of empathy to regain your balance.  Because we live in a society that often tells us to brush our emotions away, it can still be hard to speak openly about the places we are hurting, even when we know it’s good for us to talk about our traumas.  For this reason, it can be extraordinarily healing - for ourselves as individuals and for us as a society - to engage in spaces where we can be supported in sharing our whole, messy truth.

When finding your community, it’s important to choose people who are at a similar level of emotional development.  Not everyone is comfortable with vulnerability, and some people can unknowingly shame us for sharing what’s really happening inside.  Choose to open up with people who are capable of speaking about the hard parts of their lives. When we engage in a mutual exchange of vulnerability, we gain a special kind of resilience and strength.  We remember we’re not alone, and this mutuality helps us pick up the pieces and keep going.

4. Take leadership.  Once you have regenerated your energy, committed to your daily routines and engaged with a supportive community, chances are that you now feel grounded enough to take on new tasks.  With you full energy intact, take stock of where you can be most effective in making change.

Do you want to organize a letter-writing campaign with Vote Forward so you can influence the midterm elections?  

Do you want to learn more about bystander training so you can disrupt future sexual assaults?

Are you interested in supporting DC’s homeless population this Saturday? (Ok, shameless plug, but I’d love to see you at Thrive DC’s annual 5K this Saturday! I’ve volunteered with Thrive for over 9 years and serve on the board because I think they do amazing work caring for some of DC’s most vulnerable populations.)

Take it one action at a time.  Ask your friends to join you. Share your thoughts on social media.  You never know who you can influence. Celebrate your wins and grieve your losses.  When feel overextended, come back to the basics of self-care. Mindfully caring for yourself is the necessary root work for growing strong, fruitful branches.  This is why it’s essential to take advantage of the time after a big setback to increase your self-care. When you utilize this time to restore yourself, you can keep focused on your goals and continue showing up to create the world you wish to live in.

I’m curious!  Which of these four steps feels most important for you right now?  Do you need to go easy on yourself, reestablish your daily routines, find a support network or take leadership?  Hit “reply” and let me know. I can’t wait to read your responses.

With care,
Gracy

Self-Care Untruth #3: You Have to Do Your Self-Care Alone

This week, I'm finishing up my series on debunking the self-care untruths that keep us from:

1) practicing authentic self-care in our lives; and
2) using this self-care to help fix the broken parts of our world. 

In this episode, I discuss why authentic self-care must be practiced within a supportive community, and how letting others into our self-care can disrupt our toxic addiction to individualism.

Plus, sign up is now open for the Beautiful Life Collective (but it closes September 30th)!

Learn more and sign up here!

Wednesday Missive: How I Messed Up My Webinar (or So I Thought)

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Hello again!

I hope you’ve had a great week!

This week, as I wrap up this month’s series on “Self-Care Beyond the Self,” I want to tell you a story about the self-care untruths in action.

On Monday, I hosted a webinar called “Turning Your Self-Care into Visionary Leadership.”  I had been promoting it for weeks - as part of the launch for the Beautiful Life Collective (sign up is now open until 9/30, more information below!) - and was so excited to convene for an hour with a group of impassioned women who want to lead through self-care.

The webinar began normally.  I felt the typical flurry of nerves as I wrote down a few notes and pulled the visuals I wanted to share.  As always, I was trying to strike the right balance of an organized format while speaking from my heart.

I was giddy as the call began.  It felt great to see folks hop on the line and feel the warm surge of connection as we talked about self-care.  Even though we were meeting online, it felt like a cozy virtual circle.

Then something happened.  About halfway through the call, without any clear trigger, I started getting anxious. The warm connected feeling dissipated.  I’m not sure what it sounded like to others, but to me it felt like I kept getting off topic and stumbling over my words.

I managed to get through until the end.  After I hung up, my sh*tty voice immediately launched in.  It told me I should have been more prepared for the call and that everyone on the line was probably bored or confused by what I was trying to share.  It told me I hadn’t shared anything about visionary leadership. The voice told me I couldn’t possibly share the webinar recording the next day.

You know these moments of self-flagellation, right?  They aren’t pretty. While I’m in one, that’s usually when I start to downward spiral in my self-care.  As I allow my funk to grow, I don’t cook a proper dinner or watch too much TV or pick a fight with Micah (or sometimes all three).  

But on Monday afternoon, I chose to do something revolutionary.  I chose not to believe that voice.

Instead, I took a deep breath and told myself that I did that best that I could.  Then, I quickly finished my last to-do list items of the day (including recording the welcome video for the Beautiful Life Collective), and exchanged emails with a friend who had been on the call, admitting that I had felt off during our time and accepting her reassurance.  I drank a glass of water and switched the laundry. I made sure I had all the ingredients I needed to make dinner before leaving to pick up Jonah at daycare.

I didn’t feel great, but I was steady.  These grounding self-care actions helped me avoid a self-care downward spiral and I was proud of myself for that.  

Then, as I was driving to get Jonah, I suddenly understood the real reason I had gotten so anxious during the call.  Tracing my feelings back, I realized my anxiety set in just after I had shared my growing awareness around police brutality against the black community.  

As background, I’ve had a “Black Lives Matter” sign in my yard for the last couple of years and have considered myself pretty woke on this subject.  However, over the past months I have read and listened to more black voices regarding the subject of police brutality. Slowly, I’ve understood just how systematically racist the institution of policing is and how privileged I’ve been as a white person to not understand that. (Ijeoma Oluo’s incredible book, “So You Want to Talk About Race,” is a important one to check out for a critical perspective.)

It felt important to share my growing awareness on the call, but as soon as I did, I got super nervous.  I know how strongly some people feel about honoring police service - especially any of us with police officers in our close circles - and I imagined how I might offend those people by publicly stating my newfound belief that policing often hurts people of color more than it helps them.

I’m not proud to admit this, but I think it’s important to spell out what happened if I want to take my self-care beyond myself.  The part of me that desperately wants to people please and get all the gold stars is the part of me that got anxious about sharing my truth.  This part of me is not very mature. She only wants to feel safe, and gets very nervous when that safety is threatened. When it is, she starts to shut down, lest she get hurt even more. This is why the warm connection went away after I took a risk.  

The craziest part of this whole story is that it took me a full hour to realize the real reason I was upset.  Before that, my only thought was that I was the problem. The voice in my head told me that the reason I felt off during the webinar was because I should have done better.  Had I cooperated with this judgmental voice and went into my self-care downward spiral, I would have lost this incredible learning experience.

I share this story because I think it’s an example of why it’s so hard to have real conversations about social justice.  Even if we want to show up in solidarity with vulnerability communities - and I believe most people who are reading this really do - the moment that our safety feels threatened, we shut down or get defensive or start people pleasing out of fear.  

This shutting down can lead into a spiral of numbing behavior and self-loathing (so we don’t have to feel these difficult feelings).  We mistakenly assume the problem is about us. We never search any deeper for what is really happening in the moment. The bigger truth that is waiting for our awareness is lost.

This is why I don’t think we can separate out self-care from a real conversation about social justice.  If we aren’t committed to authentic self-care - which is what wakes up our real self-awareness - we won’t understand when we internalize our challenging feelings about inequalities in the world.  Without our self-awareness, these systematic inequalities will continue to oppress the people that need our solidarity while we spend eternity on the hampster wheel of trying to fix ourselves (okay, maybe the craziest part about my story isn’t that it took me an hour to realize why I was upset, but that it didn’t take hours, days, months, or even years!).   

My webinar was supposed to be about self-care and visionary leadership.  At first, I felt like I had failed in explaining my thoughts about true visionary leadership. Then, as the messy, beautiful real-life experience played out, I realized I had just worked through the self-care untruths I’ve been sharing about for the past month.

I realized that:

  1. I could have an imperfect webinar and still show up to care for the world.

  2. Doing this deeper self-care work did not feel good, and yet this challenging experience was important for my own deepening self-awareness.

  3. I don’t have to go through this experience alone.  Right now, I am able to share the truth with you all and find connection in the sharing.

This feels like an incredibly relevant introduction to the Beautiful Life Collective, the socially-conscious cooperative of women leaders.  This is the supportive, inspiring program that will help you see your own self-care untruths so that you can show up as a real leader in our world.  

Together, we will learn authentic self-care so we can live out our values and create a more beautiful world to hand over to the next generation.  We will wake up our deeper self-awareness and gain the support we need to be a self-care influencer.

This program is designed for those of us with a busy lifestyle (most lessons you can download and listen to while folding laundry or driving), and costs less than a couple of fancy cocktails.  The women who have already signed up are amazing. This is going to be so good.

Learn more and sign up for the Beautiful Life Collective

Registration is now open and will close on September 30th at midnight EST.   We won’t open for new members again until 2019. This is your moment - are you ready to take your self-care beyond the self?

Join us!

With care,
Gracy

PS - I will not send another email reminder to you to sign-up (unless you are on the Power Ladies mailing list and I have a lot of great self-care resources + reminders coming to you over the next few days).  So don’t delay! Sign up now and take your self-care to the next level. It’s our time to go beyond the self and out into the greater world!

Self-Care Untruth #3: You Have to Do Your Self-Care Alone

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Hello Dears,

Over the past weeks, I’ve been sharing the self-care untruths that keep us blocked in our self-care and feeling stuck in our ability to care for the world.  It’s been a thrill to debunk the common self-care misconceptions that: 1) you have to fix yourself before you can help others, and 2) your self-care should always feel good.

These culturally-affirmed ideas about self-care not only keep us from feeling authentic in our lives, but they also ensure we are too stressed to believe we can create a just, equitable world for all.

This week, I am sharing the last untruth in this series.  After I unveil it, I’ll spend the next week launching into the self-care that DOES work - not just for us, but for the beautiful society we can work to create.  

To receive these tried-and-true, visionary self-care secrets, make sure you are signed up for my free webinar “Turning Self-Care into Visionary Leadership” on September 24th from 3-4pm EST.  No worries if you can’t be live! After, you’ll receive the recording + the self-care secrets + Q&A with some of my favorite women visionary leaders. This is the self-care that’s taken me decades to learn and has built a powerful community of visionary women leaders!

(If you don’t sign up, make sure to open my Wednesday email next week. It’s the ONLY chance you’ll have to sign up for the Beautiful Life Collective for a very special pilot price!)

The last self-care untruth I’m unpacking is: you have to do your self-care all alone.

This untruth has been a particularly hard one for me to unlearn.  I grew up with the idea that I - and I alone - had to make things happen in my life.  I thought asking for help made me appear weak and that it was my responsibility to make sure everyone else was okay.  Further, I believed there was only a set amount of goodness to go around. If someone else was succeeding it must be because I was failing.  

Like all coping mechanisms, this hyper-individualism worked until it didn’t anymore.  Sure, I felt exhausted by the people-pleasing, insecure about my life choices and frustrated by my inability to escape the poisonous energy of jealousy, but by the time I was in my 30’s, I had also used this individualism to build a fairly successful-looking life for everyone around me to admire.  I practiced yoga and became a yoga teacher. As my teaching grew, I led international retreats and created a six-figure coaching business. I carefully decorated my apartment, made sure my clothes were fashionable and got my nails done every two weeks. I even went on self-discovery trips to places as far as the Amazon so the shaman there could help me figure myself out.  

I want to note that none of these actions are negative in themselves.  However, I focused on cultivating my exterior as a way to avoid the painful emotions still buried inside of me.  I didn’t understand at the time, but looking back, I see how much energy I extended to avoid facing this deep layer of self-care.

Then, three years ago, I was on a small retreat for women entrepreneurs in Topanga Canyon, CA when another participant approached me.  After listening to me share about my business struggles - the over-responsibility, the people-pleasing, the inability to set boundaries - she asked if I had grown up in a family with alcoholism.  To her, these sounded like the common character defenses that come from growing up around addiction. She mentioned the idea of going to a support group for people living with the effects of addiction.

At first I felt defensive - sure, there had been addictive behavior, but I was pretty sure that it hadn’t affected me - but the more I sat with her suggestion, the more sense it made.  Slowly, I began to connect the dots that maybe my problems weren’t just because I was a defective person. Maybe my personal pain was coming from a more common problem.

Back at home, I researched the meetings near me.  On a bright Sunday afternoon, I parked my car in quiet neighborhood and searched out the entrance to a church basement.  It was a small meeting, but as each person shared his or her experience, I was overwhelmed by the intensity of my emotions.  All at once, anger, sadness, and fear rose up in my body. I didn’t know why I was feeling so much, but I knew I had to come back again to figure out why.

For the next few years, I kept showing up and looking deeper inside. Through trial-and-error, I found the meetings that felt inspiring, and the people that seemed safe enough to trust.  Little by little, I shared my real experience with the group and let them support me as painful emotions rose up so they could be healed.

Throughout it all, I’ve been resistance to the process.  The part of me that wants to do my self-care all by myself is constantly offended by the idea that I can’t do this inner work alone.  And yet, the wise part of me knows that I simply cannot practice this kind of deep self-care as a solo traveller.  Not only is it too hard to come out of denial by myself, but it’s also too scary to transform alone.

And oh, how I have transformed!  As I used this group support to work through my intimacy fears - and there were many - my life has dramatically changed.  I met my ride-or-die partner, became a mother to a delightful child, and finally feel like I belong to a wonderful community of people who support my self-care.  Instead of being jealous of other’s accomplishments, I feel inspired by the people around me because I know we are all helping each other succeed.

As I often say, facing myself - really letting myself be seen - within a community has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  It totally sucks except that it’s given me everything I’ve ever wanted.

Most importantly, I’m learning translate this personal healing as fuel to create a more beautiful world for all.  I’m coming out of my denial that our society works for everyone (and this is such a hard one for white people whom our society really does benefit), and understanding that my well-being is wrapped up in the well-being of all people, especially those who are most marginalized.

I sense I’m not alone in believing I have to do everything by myself.  Hyper-individualism is such driving force in our society. Not only does it push us all harder to produce, but it also keeps us divided from each other.  If we are so focused on our individual successes - and threatened by the successes of others - then we are too overextended to see how we diminish our personal power when we separate ourselves off from others.

Further, I believe this hyper-individualism is what creates a society fueled by structural racism.  When personal success is the only goal, we become willing to overlook the suffering of others if it means we can keep up appearances and stay comfortable.  We can begin to undo this dysfunctional thinking and our unjust structures by coming together as a community based in collective self-care.  Not only does this help us effectively heal as individuals, but it gives us back the energy and focus we need to heal our broken world.

Because truly, I don't think any of us really want to spend more time worrying about our thighs getting bigger. I don’t think we want lose sleep obsessing over self-destructive relationships or a toxic work culture.  In our hearts, we don’t want to feel divided from the people around us by jealousy. I think we are ready to move, together, into the bigger and more important issues we face as a world.

Of course, we need to practice self-care - the most authentic, righteous self-care there is - along the way.   It’s only with self-care that we can realize we are the visionary leaders we have been waiting for.

Want to learn this visionary self-care?  Sign up for the free “Turning Self-Care into Visionary Leadership” webinar and watch for registration opening for the Beautiful Life Collective next week (and closing very soon after!).

Until then, much love to you and to our whole community!

XO,
Gracy

Podcast Alert! Self-Care Untruth #2: Your Self-Care Should Always Feel Good

Over the next few weeks, I'm breaking down the self-care untruths that keep us from:

1) practicing authentic self-care in our lives, and

2) using this self-care to help fix the broken parts of our world. 

In this episode, I discuss why authentic self-care may feel uncomfortable in the moment, but will always lead to you feeling more powerful in your life. 

Want to know more about this kind of self-care leadership? Sign up for my free webinar "Turning Your Self-Care into Visionary Leadership" on September 24 from 3-4pm EST!

Self-Care Untruth #2 : Your Self-Care Should Always Feel Good

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Hello All,

First thing: The “What’s Your Self-Care Leadership Style?” quiz is ready!  Sign up for “Turning Self-Care into Visionary Leadership” free webinar on September 24th from 3-4pm (no worries, if you can’t be live, I’ll email you the link right after) and get the quiz in your inbox! Learn your own unique leadership style as well as how to best care for yourself in your ongoing path toward leadership.  

And now, today…

Over the next few weeks, as we get ready for the launch of the Beautiful Life Collective, I’m sharing the self-care untruths that keep so many of us blocked in our self-care efforts.  I think it’s important to understand these false pretenses so that we don’t get stuck in them (often over and over and over again).

(If you missed it last week, learn the first untruth: why you are not broken and how you are, right now, completely able to help fix the world.)

This week, I want to debunk the concept that our self-care should always feel good.

Six years ago, I made a real commitment to taking better care of myself.  Although I was a yoga teacher and to all appearances looked very healthy, I knew I wasn’t feeling as good as I could.  I drank more often than I wanted to, ended most of my days with a couple of hours of TV, and managed to sleep through all of the morning practices I wanted to be doing.  

I had considered making self-care changes before, but something about that moment felt different.  I knew I needed to take better care of myself for reasons that felt bigger than me. So, I made a change.  I began starting my days with smoothies, took my meditation practice seriously, and decided to invest in a year-long training in Ayurveda (yoga’s sister science).

It was just after signing up for that training that my then-partner and I sat down for a difficult conversation.  We spoke about loving each other but not feeling in love. By the end of the talk, we knew we weren’t ready to break up, but we weren’t sure if we would stay together.  We decided to focus on our relationship for a while and see what happened.

During this time, I became really confused and anxious.  I didn’t know what to do - I was literally thinking to myself, should I stay or should I go? - so I just kept focusing on my self-care.  I turned down more drinks and began going to bed earlier. I woke up to meditate and practice yoga. I was still confused and anxious, but I knew that I couldn’t give up on self-care in the midst of all these anxieties..

We spent six difficult months living in limbo, deciding if we could make our relationship work.  Finally, just as summer was turning to fall, my then-partner broke up with me and moved out of our apartment a couple of weeks later.  We had a minor fight over who got to keep the couch (in the end, I did), but other than that it was a fairly harmonious break-up.

Although I knew it was right for both of us, I was terrified of the change.  Before, I had always fallen apart during break-ups and often took years to recover from the abandonment feelings.But this time felt different.  I had my self-care - my already-practiced routines - to hold me while I weathered this huge transition.

A few months later, just as I was feeling some sense of stability, I found out my father had cancer.  A year later, after a lot of invasive medical treatment, he passed away. During this whole time, I kept waking up in the morning, doing my morning practices and going to bed early.  I’d arrive at the hospital with enough energy to sit by his bed, hold his hand and be there for him and my family.

As I drove to and from the hospital, I often thought that this wasn’t how it was supposed to work.  I wanted to take better care of myself because I wanted to feel good. Instead, I had just gone through the hardest year of my life.  I had cried more in the past 12 months than I had in the previous few years.

And yet, this moment of my life was teaching me something else - something deeply important that I would return to again and again in the coming years.

My self-care wasn’t making me feel good, but it was making me feel like myself.  Finally, I felt like the woman I had always wanted to be. This woman was able to be present in difficult situations, truly care for her family and be the leader of her own life.  Self-care had unlocked a layer of my own integrity that I hadn’t even know I was searching for.

The idea that our self-care should always feel good is one that has been sold to us over and over.  We learn, while flipping through a magazine or watching a few commercials, that if we are doing our self-care correctly, we should feel no sadness, pain or remorse.  We are taught that as women, if we are beautiful, thin and have a hunky man in our arms, our lives should feel wonderful all of the time.

It’s taken me decades to see through this empty promise.  If it was true, every time we gave up dairy or ran a marathon we would stay blissful.  But we don’t always stay happy, because human beings aren’t meant to always be happy. Our lives are much richer than that. But rather than question this faulty logic, when we feel sad we assume we have failed and give up on our self-care efforts.  Or we think we just need to work harder and become compulsory in our self-care. These self-care attitudes are what fuels multi-billion dollar diet industries and a lot of unnecessary suffering.

I believe taking good care of ourselves will help us feel better on a few different levels, but it’s not meant to make our problems go away. Rather, I think self-care is here to help us go deeper into our problems.  Self-care - when practiced authentically - increases our capacity to handle challenging situations. We gain the strength and resilience necessary to make tough decisions, have difficult conversations and stay true to ourselves, even when it means disappointing other people.

If anything, self-care makes us feel our feelings more.  When we let go of numbing behavior (goodbye, habitual Netflix!), we re-sensitize ourselves.  Reconnecting to our own feelings not only improves our mental health, but it also awakens a sense of shared compassion.  You realize that my suffering looks like your suffering. We can’t as easily turn away from other people’s pain. Instead, we begin to think of what we might do to help.

This is why I believe self-care is not only the path to personal integrity, but it’s also the path to visionary leadership.  As we care for ourselves, we see the responsibility we have to take care of all people. Self-care then gives us the energy and the courage we need to keep moving forward to create a life that’s in alignment with our deeper values.

Does this feel big?  I think it really is.  More so, I think that these self-care skills are going to become increasingly important in the future.  From my vantage point, I see our collective issues getting more complex before they ever get easier. We now need everyone who cares about our world to step up and take leadership from a truly compassionate place within themselves.  I don’t think this will happen without authentic self-care.

The good news is that we don’t have to do this alone.  I’ll go much further into that idea next week as I debunk the next self-care untruth.

(Are you feeling inspired?  Make sure to sign up for the free “Turning Your Self-Care into Visionary Leadership” webinar on September 24th!  Your visionary path is clearer than you might think. I can’t wait to share more with you!)

Until then, please keep taking care of yourself.  It’s more important than ever!

With care,
Gracy

Free Self-Care Webinar: Turning Self-Care into Visionary Leadership

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September 24, 2018 from 3-4 PM EST

This webinar is for you if you want to find:

  • Tangible relief from the voice in your head that tells you that you are too broken to help mend our world (because I’ll share how to get going and keep going in your service) 
     

  • Genuine connection to a self-care community (because you’re really starting to sense you need support in examining your own limitations and utilizing your unique gifts)
     

  • The confidence to show up as an authentic role model who wisely wields her gifts and influence (be it at work, with your family or in your larger community) to create the world she envisions  

This dynamic workshop will help you leverage your current work situation into one of authentic leadership based in self-care. Schedule time in your workday for this important webinar and further your trajectory of self-care leadership. This is how we can create unprecedented change in our world!

PS - If you can't be live, I will email you the link right after. You'll have 48 hours to watch it for free before it disappears! 

Go here to get the call-in information.

Podcast Alert! Self-Care Untruth #1: You Need to Fix Yourself to Fix the World

Over the next few weeks, I'm breaking down the self-care untruths that keep us from,

1) practicing authentic self-care in our lives, and
2) using this self-care to help fix the broken parts of our world. 

In this episode, I share the essential difference between self-care and self-improvement (learn why you aren't needy!), and how to transform your self-care into the visionary leadership necessary to create an anti-racist society.

Sign up for my free webinar "Turning Your Self-Care into Visionary Leadership" on September 24 from 3-4pm EST!  

Self-Care Untruth #1: You Have to Fix Yourself to Fix the World

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Hello Dears,

First thing:  As part of the Beautiful Life Collective launch later this month, I’m offering a free webinar called “Turning Self-Care into Visionary Leadership” on Monday, September 24th from 3-4pm EST. (If you can’t make it live, I will email you the link right after and you'll have 48 hours to watch/listen!)  As you learn more about your individual self-care leadership approach, you’ll discover the best way to work through your self-care blocks and how to show up as a leader who is ready to create inspired change in our world. Sign up here!

Bonus: Sign up for the webinar and be the first to receive the free “What’s Your Self-Care Leadership Type?” quiz next week!  (Over the next few weeks, if you register, you’ll also get bonus self-care routines, leadership resources, and inspiring self-care Q&As with some of my favorite women leaders.)

And now, today…

When I was growing up, I’d sometimes wander away from the other kids on the playground.  As I set myself apart, back behind the swings, I’d get lost in such deep pockets of regret.  Even as young as 7 years old, I’d trace my life backward and spiral into feelings of intense brokenness.

Why didn’t I feel happier?
I guess that’s because I don’t have enough friends….
Why don’t I have more friends?
I think it’s because I am fat…. (I learned to compulsively eat to numb my feelings when I was young, and I grew up in a culture that saw me as overweight and therefore, less worthy)
Why am I fat?
I think it’s because my parents got divorced and I feel sad and I don’t know how to control that.
Why did my parents get divorced?
They say it’s not my fault, but I think it still might be.

No matter which way I’d trace it back, it would always lead to the idea that something was really wrong with me.  A voice in my head assured me it was my fault that I felt so lonely and defective.

As an adult who has spent decades learning how to care for herself, I know now what I was doing as a young girl, alone on the playground.  The factors that shaped my life - dysfunctional family patterns such as alcoholism and mental illness - felt so dangerously out of my control, so it seemed much easier to blame myself for the difficult emotions I experienced.  

So, I internalized the problems that I couldn’t solve. I drove my shame, anxiety and depression inward, and kept them behind locked doors inside my heart.  I thought that if I worked harder to lose weight, make friends and create a more perfect exterior, I would be set free from the sadness that sat heavily on my chest. This is how my own brand of perfectionism was born, and it fueled my life for a long time.

As I got older, I learned to funnel this perfectionism into my schoolwork, my relationships and even my career.  On some levels, I got what I desired. I figured out how to lose weight, found some professional success, and cultivated a thriving social network.

On the outside I had it all.  But inside, something was still missing.  I still felt deeply alone and yearned for a relief that I couldn’t quite name.  As much as I talked about self-care, there was still a very deep, powerful layer of self-care that called to me.

Then, as I talked about in my missive from last week, two things happened in late 2016 and 2017 that changed my life forever.  After I experienced them, I couldn’t unsee what I now understood.

I saw that I had a responsibility to change our world.  If I didn’t use my power and privilege to stand up for the communities that are more vulnerable than my own, I was part of the problem.  More than being thin, more than being successful and more than even being happy, I wanted justice for everyone.

It was a disorienting moment to readjust so many priorities at once.  However, the one thing I knew I wasn’t going to give up in the name of justice was my self-care.  I looked at other chaotic activist movements and the overextended visionary leaders who had burned out fighting for justice. I knew that self-care could be my fuel, my comfort and my compass as I figured out this new path.  

So, I’ve been changing the direction of my work at Beautiful Life Self-Care.  I signed up for workshops and classes led by women of color who generously taught me what was blocked by  my own privilege. I participated in conversations about self-care and racism. I am creating an accessible, affordable collective that will  help others become visionary leaders who are firmly grounded in self-care (sign-up is coming soon!).

What I’ve done is just the beginning.  So much more is needed, from me and from others.  These steps don’t make me a good person, but these efforts do help me stay in line with my values and get warmer, warmer, warmer toward the world I want to hand over to future generations.

Throughout my journey of understanding self-care, I’ve learned an essential truth.  It’s the truth I want to go back and whisper to my sweet, aching younger self. I want to tell her that she is not broken, but our world is.  The dysfunction I experienced in my family was an example of the greater dysfunctional power dynamics in society that foster racism, sexism, classism and other forms of isolation, addiction and hatred (be it of self or others) throughout the world.

I want to tell her she is not alone in her hurting, and that rather, her pain is a powerful portal that will give her the strength and compassion to help others who are also hurting.

Mostly, I want to tell her that it’s only in service that we are set free.  Our problems of anxiety, shame, depression are just that: OUR problems. We don’t have to suffer individually any longer.  We don’t have to ignore harsh realities or hide behind shiny exteriors in the hopes others think we are ok. We can be honest about our struggles, gain resilience from each other and reach out to serve others.  

In short, we don’t have to fix ourselves to fix the world.  Now, our self-care is ready to go behind the self. We will turn our self-care into leadership that creates a more just and beautiful world for all.

Ahhhh….deep exhalation.  

(And interestingly enough, since embracing this path, I’ve noticed that my loneliness has changed into more feelings of connection, my body image anxieties have softened a bit, and my professional fears have subsided in surprising ways.  Is showing up for social justice connected to my own personal relief? I can’t say for sure, but I want to explore it more!)

Now, let’s get going!  Where do you feel broken?  Are you willing to consider that perhaps 1) You are just fine, and that 2) Your relief will come as you stand up for the world that supports all people?

Over the next month, I’m going to share a couple more of my most powerful self-care breakthroughs.  Not only have they transformed my own life, but I’ve watched hundreds of clients use these new self-care perspectives to step into greater leadership roles in their own families, work groups and communities.

Do these messages of socially aware self-care resonate with you?  If so, I think you’re going to love the Beautiful Life Collective, my new self-care cooperative of women visionaries who believe self-care can save the world.  It starts October 1st! Join the waitlist here.

Until then, I wish you unprecedented self-care and an ignited imagination about how that can help us care for all.  This is our time. We are moving forward, together, with care. Isn’t it so beautiful and exciting and so deeply needed?

With care,
Gracy