Canine Assisted Coaching Anyone?

Today I would like you to meet our dog Danica. Danica is an English Shepherd, and she is 6 months old. She has been with us since September, and she is in training to become a Service Dog, assisting me in my coaching. What Danica (along with so many of her fellow canines) brings into the world is her playful, gentle nature, and her ability to live in the moment, while never wasting time with grudges.

Danica loves to play with her Frisbee and with sticks of all kinds.

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Danica’s question for you: When was the last time you petted a dog?

Danica and her Frisbee (12.1.2023)

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Manuela Zeitlhofer | Mental Fitness & Nature Coach

Mental Fitness Snippet: Walking & Breathing

The snow is crunching under my feet. I breathe in while I take two steps. I breathe out while I take the next two steps. My mind chatters. I think: “In” (and take two steps), “out” (and take two steps). I let go of the thoughts that want to bubble up. “In…. out” (crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch).

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Manuela Zeitlhofer | Mental Fitness and Nature Coach

Playing to our strengths

Playing to your strength means doing what you are able to do well, rather than doing other things.

An example: A friend’s son was assessed for ADHD. In the process, it was found that he is simply a kid who needs more physical exercise than he was getting in school and at home. It was not easy, but the school and the parents found ways for him to get more play time outside and more time when he is unplugged from any technical devices.

This story led me to think about people in general:

Are we living our lives playing to our strengths or are we just playing along with the structures we find ourselves in?
How can we create the lives that make it possible for us to use our strengths and flourish?

This is of course only part of the picture. As professionals, we have to be realistic: It is not always possible to use our strengths (or is it?), to embrace our weaknesses (have you heard the term “own your weaknesses”?), and to know your growth areas. As a person working with other people, you can also play to their strengths (how exciting!), and of course, we are well advised to stretch to form new strengths, and develop an authentic, informed, and confident awareness around the whole topic. In summary: To be who we are!

In my Nature Connected Living Quest you will discover and work in a very comprehensive way with your strengths.

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Manuela Zeitlhofer | Mental Fitness & Nature Coach

(Photo by Dustin Humes, Unsplash 2022)

Article inspired by: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2020/01/10/play-to-your-strengths-13-even-better-ways-to-improve-your-leadership-skills/?sh=6ca7d03b6f79

Unique Animals

We have been enjoying the very unique personalities of several domestic ducks. It all began with a few barnyard-mix ducklings in 2021. In 2022, two Magpie-Cayuga ducklings followed. A number of them were males, so we found them loving new homes where they have been enjoying their own flocks of duck-ladies.

At the end of this summer, we had one female (Sunny) and one male (Magnum) left. For the second time in her life, Sunny was in the process of laying eggs, and for the second time in my life, I was collecting those eggs. Sunny did not want to accept the fate I had chosen for her – that is, not to have ducklings in late fall. I kept reminding her that it is much more sensible to raise her young when summer was approaching, and not when winter is around the corner. She paid no heed. Instead, she faithfully stuck to her nest which was well padded with her own down feathers, and the straw I had provided. She also rounded up a number of rocks that were roughly the size of her eggs, and she sat on them. One day, I was gone for a few hours, and the ducks were in their fenced in area as usual. When I came back, Sunny was nowhere to be found. My heart sank, when I remembered to check inside the duck coop. Sure enough, she was there, sitting on her nest. That was when I decided to give one egg back to her so she could follow her calling. It was September 21.

Sunny then was sitting on her nest for more than 23 hours in every 24-hour period. Magnum was sitting next to her nest for the same times. I left food and water in their duck coop. Once a day, I saw them going outside to frolic in their splash-pool for a bit and forage for insects in the grass.

Last Saturday, October 15, when I tucked them in for the night, I had a chance to inspect the egg, and I saw a tiny hole. Quickly, I put the egg back in the nest and spent a fearful night. Would the duckling be able to hatch? The next morning, when I walked into the duck-coop, I was greeted by a still wet duckling. By the time I had my camera ready, Sunny had covered up her little hatchling, and she was hissing at me preventively. My offering of cooked peas was graciously accepted.

On day two, the duckling – we named it Rocksie – was sitting next to Sunny, and we were allowed to hold it briefly, before giving it back to its mother, where it disappeared under the warm feathers.

I keep thinking what a miracle it is that we have been witnessing.

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Question: Where have you last experienced the magic of nature?

Sunny, Rocksie and Magnum (October 17, 2022)

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Manuela Zeitlhofer | Mental Fitness and Nature Coach

My Animal Teachers

Dora & Speckles, June 21, 2021

After I had written my previous two posts, a racoon attacked and killed one of our ducks: Dora, a little black female.

I was reminded that nature is neither good nor bad, nature just IS. The racoon needs to eat. The ducks don’t fight back. (And I failed to keep them safe, as our electric netting fence was not strong enough to keep the racoon out.)

We have been planning to get a dog in September. Too late for Dora, but hopefully the dog will deter any predators and keep our remaining ducks safe.

I am still sad about loosing that little bird. And I am contemplating what it means to be human, and to have the choice to be humane.

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What does it mean for you to be humane and in what situations do you see yourself be consciously humane?

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Manuela Zeitlhofer | Authenticity & Mental Fitness Coach

Animal Communication

For many people, animal communication is something that only the ‘gifted few’ can achieve. This of course is entirely untrue as we were all born with the ability to talk to and hear animals.

Holly Davis, Animal Communication With All Species

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Challenge: Communicate with the next animal you see. Then drop me a note! What have you learned?

“Starlings”, by Manuela Zeitlhofer, May 28, 2020

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Manuela Zeitlhofer | Authenticity & Mental Fitness Coach

Animal Teachers

How frequently do you interact with animals in your daily life? – Chances are that those interactions are scarce, or limited to pets. Our societies might have separated humans from animals, seeing humans as superior to animals. Yet, we admire certain qualities in specific animals. What can we learn from animals?

How about patience, living in the Now, connectedness with the intricate web of life we are part of, responsibility, attentive listening, living in tune with the natural world, and sticking together.

(inspired by 10 Important Life Lessons we can Learn From Animals)

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Can you guess which animals possess then traits listed above? – This can be a rewarding activity to do with your child! Also, you might want to observe animals around you to see which traits they display!

“Master of Camouflage” by Manuela Zeitlhofer (July 28, 2022)

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Manuela Zeitlhofer | Authenticity & Mental Fitness Coach

Doing Little Things That Matter

Do you remember the story “The Star Thrower”? Here is a story from my life:

I believe in minimizing my footprint and taking care of nature. I own a little piece of land – 4 acres – and I feel that I am the steward of this land. I am responsible for, but I am not entitled to do any damage to this land. I have the right to live here, to grow my plants, to live in my house, to be who I am.

I see this stewardship as our calling as humans. We have the power to destroy, but we also have to power to manage what we were entrusted with responsibly and sustainably. It may – and it does – feel daunting at times to do my little part in taking care of the world.

What I do includes: growing my own garden, buying organic food, buying what’s locally in season, buying fewer things that are packed in plastic, and more that are not packed, or packed in paper, consuming less, buying second hand, passing on things I no longer need to someone else who can use them, seeking happiness where I am and not where a car or a plane can take me.

It might feel hypocritical at times, when I do drive my car, or when I do buy things that are disposable or wrapped in plastic (or both). Then I try to forgive myself – because as the little boy said “It makes a difference to this one”.

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Question: What are your thoughts about this topic?

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Manuela Zeitlhofer | Mental Fitness Coach

Multiple Perspectives

Essentially, things just are. We attribute meaning to things and events. Sometimes we dwell in the negative aspects or implications of something, when there really are other sides to everything.

In coaching we use this principle, and we call it reframing: We encourage a different perspective or seeing something in a different light.

Today, I did this with my sandpit: Part of our property consists of a former sandpit that was left in its soil-deprived state. For the past 25 years, nothing more than a few tough grasses, willows and even fewer very tough pines and cedars (all looking like bonsais) have been growing here. In the summer, this bothers my agriculturalist’s heart. Now, with a little bit of snow, the steep banks make marvelous sliding hills. And I wonder what other things in my life need reframing.

How about you? What could you reframe right now? – Please share your thoughts!

Less Knowing More Being

Sometimes I wonder about the scope of our awareness. My ego does not agree, but my intuition tells me that there is more than I can perceive. Nature taught me a valuable lesson about that:

I have been baffled many times by the perseverance of ants, walking back and forth on their established routes, carrying up to twenty (!) times their body weight. I kept thinking about their world view: What do they see? What do they perceive the world to be? And where does the world as they know it end? While I am aware that the average ant might not be thinking those thoughts, I inferred that their world view is probably more limited than ours. Yet, they might confidently state: “This is how the world is!”

We do the same. We postulate that there is an objective reality and that we know what it is (or strive to find it). I postulate that – even if an objective reality exists – we might not be able to perceive it. So what are we left to do?

How about living in the moment?

I would love to read your thoughts!

What Snapping Turtles Can Do to You

Life has been a bit challenging recently, due to ____ (please feel in the blank).

Today is a sunny late summer day. As I took a break from work and went outside to sit in the grass for a few minutes, my gaze fell upon a little snapping turtle, no bigger than two inches. He (?) was sitting 1 foot away from me, staring me “down”. I had to smile, and I thanked that little creature for making me smile.

Then I realized that the world had not changed, but my attitude had shifted: from my problems to the possibilities life holds.

My name is Manuela. I am a Professional Life Coach.

Contact me when you are ready to shift your focus from the backwards look at your problem to the forward look towards your possibilities! It’s magical!

Doktor Wald (German)

(This is a simple and slightly provocative poem by a German forest ranger that seems to address what I coach by: The power of nature!)

Doktor Wald

Wenn ich an Kopfweh leide und Neurosen,
mich unverstanden fühle oder alt,
und mich die holden Musen nicht liebkosen,
dann konsultiere ich den Doktor Wald.
Er ist mein Augenarzt und Psychiater,
mein Orthopäde und mein Internist.
Er hilft mir sicher über jeden Kater,
ob er von Kummer oder Cognac ist.
Er hält nicht viel von Pülverchen und Pille,
doch umso mehr von Luft und Sonnenschein.
Und kaum umfängt mich angenehme Stille,
raunt er mir zu: “Nun atme mal tief ein!”
Ist seine Praxis oft auch überlaufen,
in seiner Obhut läuft man sich gesund.
Und Kreislaufkranke, die noch heute schnaufen,
sind morgen ohne klinischen Befund.
Er bringt uns immer wieder auf die Beine,
das Seelische ins Gleichgewicht,
verhindert Fettansatz und Gallensteine.
nur – Hausbesuche macht er leider nicht.

Förster Helmut Dagenbach, 1986

Doctor Woods

(Freely translated by Manuela Zeitlhofer)

When I have a headache and neurosis
feel misunderstood or old
and the lovely muses don’t caress me,
I consult Doctor Woods.
He’s my ophthalmologist and psychiatrist
my orthopedist and my internist.
He sure helps me over every hangover
whether it’s from grief or cognac.
He doesn’t think much of medications and pills,
but all the more of air and sunshine.
And no sooner does a pleasant silence envelop me,
he whispers to me: “Now take a deep breath!”
If his practice is often overcrowded,
one runs oneself back to health in his care.
And the patients who are still panting today
are without symptoms tomorrow.
He keeps getting us back on our feet
and restores our mental balance,
prevents fat deposits and gallstones.
however – unfortunately he does not make house calls.

Forest ranger Helmut Dagenbach, 1986

The Beauty of Weeds

I found those beautiful flowers by the side of our house. They are tough in many ways: tough to pull out, tough to give up during a drought, tough to give up in a dry location, tough to walk on, tough to mow over with the lawnmower. Yesterday, I walked around the house to find some of them in full bloom. That made me think of the (often) hidden beauty of things we label as undesirable.

What was the last thing, plant or animal in nature that astonished YOU?

Nurture with Intention

I love my house. And I love my garden. My property is surrounded by wilderness, I have started o draw a line of where my endeavors end and the freedom of the wild space around me begins. In some way, that is also where my freedom (the freedom to enjoy instead of trying to control and modify for example) begins. I cannot help it. I pull out the grass from the well-fertilized garden beds, and I start grass on the less fertilized and sandy soil around. “Of course”, I thought yesterday, “the grass wants to grow in my garden beds – that’s what I nurture. I have to nurture the grass where I want it to grow.”

What do you want to nurture in your life? And do you do that with the intended outcome in mind?