3 Lessons from the Garden

I just gave a workshop called Your Elemental and Emotional Balance, based on the book, The Language of Emotions by Karla McLaren, and my training as a Dynamic Emotional Integration Trainer. We worked with the 4 elements of Earth, Air, Water and Fire, and the Empathic Mindfulness Practices we can do to rebalance ourselves. Since then, the aspect of maintaining an emotional balance through the elements has cropped up all the over the place, especially since I’ve been working in the garden. Physical labor relates to the Earth element, and planning the garden relates to the Fiery vision of what I want to eat in two months, and Airy logic to lay it out in a way that takes advantage of the sun’s passage.

My husband and I are part of a CSA (community supported agriculture, which means we get our vegetables directly from the farmers. This keeps our money in the community, and gives us fresher veggies). We’ll be receiving a box of fresh produce every two weeks to supplement whatever we plant in the garden, all summer long and into the fall. Because this box often contains staples like lettuce, onions, potatoes, and squash, I decided to dedicate our tiny garden space to the things we really like and wish we could get more of – heirloom tomatoes, green beans, basil, arugula, spinach, and strawberries.

I’ve found the garden to be a place of balance for me, when I need to regulate my emotions or just for a break in between tasks.

3 Lessons from the Garden

1. Keep transforming
I’ve planted my lettuce and arugula and spinach, expectantly waited to see little green heads pop up, felt a little pop of excitement when a whole row appears above the soil, and a little sigh of sadness when one doesn’t make it. My tomato transplants are freshly installed in the ground, while the flowering sweet peas I planted last fall are finally blooming, after they climbed 5 feet up the trellis. I had to keep up with their growth by supporting them along the way, and this spring, after a winter of dormancy, those peas sprung out of the ground like a fountain. I think transformation is like that too sometimes.

2. You win some, you lose some.
The strawberries I planted came with little green berries on them, one of which slowly turned first pink, then red in the sun. I watched this transformation and anticipated tasting the sweet little thing, the first product of my garden. Later that afternoon, I saw a little sliver of red was all that was left hanging off the plant, and realized that we must have four-legged company in our garden, because I’m pretty sure a slug couldn’t do that kind of damage in a few hours! Critters 1, Anchen 0. And so it goes.

3. Persistence is key
About a month after we first moved in to our house, our landlord came and hauled out a trailer-full of blackberry brambles from the back yard. Ever since, it’s been an ongoing give and take between us and the blackberries.
The blackberry has taught me a lot about persistence. It never seems to take my attacks with the clippers personally, it simply grows in another direction, popping up from behind the newly installed raised bed. When I start clearing brambles on one side of the shed, and fill the yard waste container with prickly green stalks, it simply grows out the other side in even greater proliferation

Maybe this is because it has more than one method of proliferation; the vines turn to roots when they touch soil, establishing outposts every few feet. Birds and animals eat the berries and scatter the seeds. The vines climb into the trees, sending down runners, and advance ever forward like a prickly green army.

What have you learned from your garden? Or, put another way, what has your garden taught you?

How to tap in to your power by tapping in to your fear.

The following information about emotions comes from Karla McLaren’s book, The Language of Emotions, specifically the chapters on Fear, Panic and Sadness. I’m in the first cohort of her year-long licensing program, Dynamic Emotional Integration, slated to graduate April 23rd, and this article is my own interpretation of the information she provides in her book and in the course.fire-851629_1280

When do you feel most powerful? Ever wish you could just put it on, like a coat?

I always feel most powerful after I’ve been through a slightly stressful situation where I rose to meet the challenge.

This happened most recently at my Toastmasters club. I acted as Toastmaster, which means I opened the meeting, orchestrated the flow of speeches, evaluations, and table topics, and made sure we kept to our time schedule. No matter the role, I leave meetings feeling on edge, ready to strike – in a good way. Afterwards I’m alert and attentive, whether it’s getting exact change for my coffee, recounting a story and hitting the punch line, or cold-calling to set up workshops. Everything is in hyper focus, and it’s fun!

You might call this excitement, or stress, or anxiety. You might call this tapping in to your power.

This is actually a form of fear. Anxiety leads up to the event, anticipating the future. During the event, fear takes over because fear operates in the moment. Tapping in to your power is actually tapping in to your fear.

“Fear is the intelligence that takes over our bodies, our minds, and our emotions, and turns us into surprisingly masterful lifesavers. In fact, those times when we’re sure we feel no fear, when we’re completely focused, brilliantly instinctive, and amazingly resourceful, those are the times when our fear is flowing freely.” ~ Karla McLaren, from The Language of Emotions

We associate fear with running from lions, freezing in front of an on-coming semi trailer, or getting into a fight with your mother-in-law or boss. Yet this fight, flee or freeze reaction is actually panic, a heightened form of fear that disregards boundaries in favor of saving your life.

Unfortunately, some of us are walking around in a panic state almost constantly, which puts us on high alert and in reactive mode all the time, an exhausting state to be in.

It is normal to be walking around in a soft fear state. When fear is flowing easily, it helps us focus on what’s going on around us, whether that’s the car driving in front of us, or the phone and doorbell ringing at the same time, or paying the cashier and getting correct change.

Elevated fear means elevated focus – think of walking home alone at night and seeing something move in the shadows. The hair on the back of your neck might stand up, or you might feel a shot of adrenaline bolt through you. Your fear keeps you safe through keeping you focused.

Staying focused helps you keep track of what’s going on around you, whether that’s tracking a meeting, listening to the inflection in the voice of the person you’re negotiating with, or noticing when your toddler’s squeals of joy turn to cries of discomfort.

You know when you’re taking a road for the first time? Everything on that road is unique to you, so everything stands out. It might feel like it takes longer to get there, just because you’re aware of every turn in the road; the trees, the driveways, the little waterfall or the dented guard rail. This is your fear focusing you.

How can you use this focus to your advantage? Fear is something that you employ all the time, but learning how to consciously tap in to your healthy fear and welcoming these gifts takes practice and awareness.

The complete gifts of your fear include: intuition, instinct, focus, clarity, attentiveness, readiness and vigor.

First, make a list of all the things that get you into a heightened state of awareness: making a phone call to a stranger, having a near miss in traffic or a disagreement at work, being introduced to exciting new ideas, trying something new like learning a new skill, program or language, or even going to a new restaurant.

Some of these things can be controlled experiences, like trying something new, being introduced to new ideas, or talking to a stranger. Bringing your conscious awareness invites in your fear, and your awareness of what it feels like to function with your fear in a healthy way – to engage the gifts of your fear.

Doesn’t this sound like someone who is tapping in to their power?

Someone who is clear, focused, ready for action and with the energy (or vigor) to back it up? Someone who is standing in their power?

There are more aspects to the powerful person, but inviting in the gifts of free flowing fear give you a strong foundation for strong action.

Strong action to reign in a rowdy Toastmaster’s meeting, or to get correct change, or to ask your boss for a raise.

And when you’re done standing up for yourself, you can thank your fear, take a big breath and invite your sadness to help you relax and let go, so that you can move on to your next task.

The best thing you can do…

“…where everyone clung to busy-ness as thought it were proof of an importance in the larger, more meaningful world…” Martha Woodroof, Small Blessings.

Are you claiming your busyness like it’s your self-worth? When people ask how you are, instead of saying the truth, you can say, “Good. Things are busy.” And most often people look at you approvingly, as if you’ve passed the test of being a good citizen because you claim ‘busyness.’

Well, what if you can’t be busy like most people. What if you’d LOVE to be busy, but you don’t have enough business to be busy? Worse yet, what if you’d love to be busy, but you don’t have the energy to be busy?

Telling anyone you’re tired, fatigued or exhausted, can be a great way to stop a conversation. As if no one knows how to respond to this honest answer, as if being tired is a taboo topic.

When I tell people how tired I’m really feeling, it’s not because I want to make them feel bad, or to get sympathy, or to get suggestions for how to gain energy. It’s because it’s important to represent the truth of how I am feeling; to express what a lot of people are probably not. That they’re tired.

The thing is, I could probably quote statistics about how Americans are overworked, sleep deprived, and reliant on caffeine or other stimulants to get them through their day.

But I’m not talking about those people. They would actually have enough energy if they just took care of themselves the way the body requires instead of the way the media portrays the capabilities of the human body.

I’m talking about people with chronic illness that leaves them feeling wasted, fatigued all the time, where even just getting out of bed and doing normal household chores are exhausting, overwhelming, and require a nap in between.

But we live in a society where resting isn’t really allowed. If you rest, you’re weak, there’s something wrong with you, you’re lazy.

We’re not taking into account the absolute importance of rest as the counterpart to action. In traditional Chinese medicine, they have a well-known symbol of the yin and yang. The yang side is white, and represents the energy, the action, the rising, the sun, the direct, the powerful. The yin side is black and represents the quiet, peaceful, shadow, downhill, pause, the moon, and the setting. Each of these symbols holds within it a small dot of the other, because enough of one tips the balance to the other. Yang turns into yin, yin turns into yang.

Translated into an American metaphor, too much action leads to a meltdown; too much inaction can build up to an explosion.

When someone tells you they’re tired, exhausted or ‘done,’ it’s ok, it’s just another feeling on the spectrum of possibilities. Giving them space to be instead of trying to fix them gives you a break (no need to think of solutions) and them a break (no need to add more stuff to do when they’re already exhausted.)

The best thing you can do? Listen. Feel how rejuvenating that is already?

Because you’re probably tired too, and taking a rest might actually feel good.

Join the Emotions Insider, with a soon-to-be Insider!

Last weekend was the Commencement to Dynamic Emotional Integration Licensing Training – held at Institute of Noetic Sciences in Petaluma, CA, it was beautiful! Surrounded by rolling hills and by skilled empaths – an ideal combination capable of doing deep work and fun play.


Returning from DEI, my head was curiously empty. Not much going on upstairs, even though I’d spent the weekend immersed in learning, teaching and absorbing emotion education principles, skills and techniques. Fabulous stuff, and by this point, it’s beginning to feel second nature.

It’s also left me feeling…clear. More like an empty vessel than the overloaded one I went down there as. Instead of losing myself in a novel in an attempt to escape the uncomfortable feelings within my body, especially fatigue at the end of the day, I’m much more comfortable sitting with it, asking my body what it needs, and then providing it, whether that’s a bath, a nap, nourishing food, or yes, to sing. Sometimes you just gotta sing!

Growing up, I was ‘sensitive,’ and especially through my teens my inner turmoil felt like a rollercoaster I hadn’t asked to go on, and didn’t know how to get off.

Finally, I get it. I’ve got the tools to take care of my needs, to recognize anger or panic or sadness or worry or any of the other 12 emotions, and I can now do something about it! I’m no longer helpless, at the mercy of my emotions and my circumstances. I have power because I have knowledge and skills.

And now I’m officially training to share them!

For a limited time, until I get licensed as a DEI trainer, I’ll be testing, teaching, creating, collaborating, offering and working through all the skills we went over this weekend, both by myself, and with some lucky people who will get the first peek at this life-changing work. If this calls to you, you can join my Emotions Insider list to hear about learning opportunities, emotion insights, and more.

It’s all become clear: I nurture other people to bring out their possible, to help them go from impossible to possible. Emotion education is one of the essential tools to claiming your innate power.

Know Yourself. Know Your Super Powers.

There’s been a glut of Marvel Comics movies coming out, all of which involve characters possessing some facility with so-called super powers. I couldn’t tell you what they are, because the actual comic books never held my attention so much as The Secret Garden or Anne of Green Gables. Maybe you could tell me what those super powers are.

The concept, however, of super powers, has always held my attention. Ever since I read the book, The Girl With the Silver Eyes, about a girl who could levitate objects just by looking at them, how this made her an outcast, and how eventually she found other people like her. I wish I could say she became a hero, but what really happened is she didn’t feel like she was so much of a freak.

Isn’t that what we all want? To fit in, not to be seen as weird, or different? Well, isn’t that what we wanted as kids?

Nowadays, being different as an adult is acceptable, even desirable in some circles. What used to be weird has become your super power. Maybe you have amazing mustache hair, or an eye for your own unique style. Maybe you can walk into a room and rearrange the furniture with perfect feng shui, or you have the facts to 70’s music trivia on the tip of your tongue. Maybe you feel what other people are feeling, or you know what other people want.

The point is to embrace these super powers, instead of trying to hide or deny them.

They’ll only get more annoying, persistent, and unmanageable. It’s best to learn to master your super powers, whether that’s by going out to trivia night, negotiating business deals, or starting your own accessories line.

Just like emotions, if your super powers aren’t acknowledged, they’re going to get more persistent, and become un-ignorable until you either a) rearrange your neighbor’s furniture while they’re not at home or b) stuff it so far down that you forget ever even rearranging your own furniture, much less your neighbor’s, and the only thing furniture is now good for is sitting in while you flip channels, searching for another distraction from what you truly love.

We all have these things, these skills, these gifts. It’s a matter of recognizing that you have them, and giving them room to simply be. Sometimes they flourish, sometimes they flare out. How can you know if you don’t give it space?

Do this often enough, and you develop an inventory of your skills, and your super powers. The skills are the things you’ve learned to do, the super powers are the things that do you – they just happen without really thinking about it.

When you know yourself, your tendencies (do you make friends with whoever is next to you, whether it’s in the restroom or in the bar?), your patterns, your predilections, then you can use this information just like you’d use a menu to order from.

New office space? Use that furniture-arranging juju to give the place some pizzazz, your 70’s trivia for decor, your ability to know what others want to give them what they want, while still getting what you want.

Knowing your capabilities is a super power.

What are your super powers? Post one in the comments below!

My super powers include: Detail-oriented. I can spot change a mile away. An eye for color, not necessarily matching. And I can be amazingly obtuse about getting what I want, also known as having tunnel vision.

Let’s Get Real.

Hello. I’m a 33 year old woman who, let’s face it, is still learning how to be an adult. Like many other 30-somethings out there, it took me a long time to figure out what I wanted to do with this thing called life, and how I wanted to do it. Heck, I’m still figuring it out!

I didn’t want to get trapped in the ‘do the same thing until I’m 60’ routine that my parents generation did. So I didn’t go that route.

I didn’t want to get trapped in the ‘I got this job and it’s ok, and they’re promoting me so I guess I’ll stay until something better comes along and I know for certain it’s right for me’ route. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a formula for scenario #1 to happen.

I also didn’t know what I wanted to DO. I just knew a lot of what I didn’t want. No retail. No customer service (or so I thought!). No sales, no selling. No manufacturing. No ridiculous amount of sitting, or physical labor. I’m told this is the ‘neti-neti path’ – that of finding all the no’s until you find the yes.

After I figured out that I wasn’t about to be a professional climber, or climbing guide, things got dark for a while. I had a lot of health issues that severely limited my physical and mental capabilities, and I began desperately seeking this thing called ‘happiness.’ You can read about that journey here.

But I learned the hard way that happiness doesn’t come just because you want it. in fact, it might be a little farther out of reach. If anything, happiness is one of those Buddhist concepts of ‘if you don’t want it, here it is. if you become attached to it, there it goes.’

So I learned a lot of the things that don’t bring me happiness. I should say I became aware of them, because I was already doing them. Feeling bad about myself – doesn’t bring happiness. Setting unrealistic goals then pushing myself mercilessly only to fail? Doesn’t feel good. Serving coffee with a bunch of college students? Nope, not that either. Going out to bars and having random conversations? No, definitely not.

But I began getting closer. Learning to meditate and bring awareness to my daily life? Yes, that seems useful. Doing massage and tuning in to my clients’ individual energy field? Yeah, that’s interesting. Working on someone else’s dream to promote body-love and self-acceptance? Coming closer.

Doing two years of training in Shamanic Healing that gave me an understanding for the energy holes and healing work I was doing with clients? Hell yes and thank you! Getting certified as a DreamBuilder Coach to help people realize their own vision and take steps towards making it a reality? On the money! Learning about our emotions and how to listen to the messages from within? Yes oh yes!

You can see I was playing a game of hot and cold, and am getting good at getting to hot quicker.

The latest thing has been working with kids, and with people my own age. What could be more inspiring than coaching people in their painful, awkward 20’s and 30’s through the awful stuff I already went through, dug through, swam through, in a direct, supportive and systematic way? Oh, how I wish I’d had that kind of support!

My way has definitely been the ‘me do it’ way. Not the easy way. I like to call it the authentic way.

But one major thing that’s changed in the last year that’s made a huge difference? I began asking for help.

Yeah, I finally got sick and tired of trying to do everything myself, my way. Surely there was someone else out there that had already taken this road and figured it out?

Turns out I was right – yay! – and a wonderful woman named Mary Morrissey had devised a system of thinking to take you (and me) from not knowing what they wanted, to crafting a luscious, righteous vision that’s so good it gives you sparkle vision and power boosters, AND a system for bringing it from dreamland to reality.

The cool thing is, I’ve seen this work for my friends, my clients, and myself. It’s AWESOME. Like having a super power.

And that’s what I do for a living – coach people to tap in to that divine dream within, then take them step-by-step across the bridge of making their dream into a reality.

Let me tell you, this. is. awesome. Awesome to see, to be a part of, and to have the privilege and opportunity to believe in my clients and then watch amazing things happen. Like I’m teaching my clients about their own super-powers, then watching them create magical worlds of possibility beyond even my own believing.

Can you imagine what your life would be like if you were unconditionally supported? If you had a group of peers around you cheering you on, helping you problem solve, and reminding you of what your dreams are?

Does this feel good to you? Like this is a feeling you’d like around more often than not?

What if this was your default setting? What if dipping your toes into the ocean of believing was your starting point.

This is where I come in. This is what I’m good at. This is what I help you with. Because I’ve been there, I know what it’s like to walk through every kind of self-doubt, criticism, rejection and fear. I’ve been there, it sucked, and I can not only lead you out, but teach you to lead yourself. Start from the Heart, remember!

And it’s fun, it’s so fun! Imagine that you’ve tapped into an endless energy source, and just by tuning in to the vision of the life you’d love, you up your wattage to GLOW. People see the change, you feel the change. Pursuing your dreams changes you on a physical, energetic and spiritual level.

So let’s get real. Let’s take stock. Where are you now, and where do you want to be? Leave your answer in the comments, and I’ll gift a 20-minute coaching session to 1 lucky winner by next Friday. Seriously. Because life is lucky that way!

Grounded in Gratitude

So, have you heard about this whole grounding thing? New agers’ talk about being grounded, getting grounded, not being grounded.

What the heck?

The scientific definition of ‘to ground’: A connection between an electrical conductor and the Earth.

My definition of grounding: The state of being grounded, as in connected to the earth, resulting in being present in the body.

As human beings, we are electrical conductors. But can you remember the last time you connected with the earth, or were present in your body? Maybe during a run, maybe during sex? Maybe not.

We live in an information age where we’re constantly pelted with trivia, ads, ideas, podcasts, interviews, music, conversations, questions…it’s endless. A recent study came out that says we are exposed to more information in one day than our ancestors a hundred years ago were exposed to in a year. What the heck do we do with all that information? Especially since so much of it is unnecessary, superfluous, and repetitive.

The answer? Ground it out. Be present in your body to process incoming information, so you can decide what to keep and what to throw out. This is the equivalent of being the one piloting a ship through a meteor shower, instead of steering it by remote control. If the bits of information are the meteors, and you never know when another one will hit you, then it’s much easier to escape unscathed when you’re in the cockpit, than when you’re using a remote control.

So, how do you get grounded?

Short answer: it’s different for everyone.

Long answer: there are so many ways to get grounded! Meditation, visualization, exercise, laughter, conversation, fear, sadness, hiking, dancing, singing, swimming, gardening, doing an expressive practice….the list is endless, because what helps you to ground is different than what helps me to ground. We’re different human beings, wired differently.

But, I did learn a neat shortcut this weekend!

You know how you feel when you’re surrounded by people you love, or someone does you a favor, or you’re surprised by a kind act? When you look around and take stock, and are overwhelmed by a feeling of gratitude?

That warm feeling in your heart that seeps outward like honey, slowly spreading and growing?

That grateful feeling brings you into your body, making you present right here and now. Making you grounded.

You can get grounded by feeling grateful. Gratitude makes you grounded.

Go ahead, try it. In fact, having a list of things that elicit gratitude is a great go-to to change your energy, and bring your focus back to the present moment. Use this list in step 4 of the Self-Compassion Practice. It can be as simple as the fact that you are breathing, that you have a comfortable place to sleep, that the ground supports you. Or it can be a story of something that happened to you, like my story of healing that brought me here today.

So, what are you grateful for? What gives you that heart-feeling all the way to your toes, until your eyes leak? Post your answer in the comments!