When the fog is too thick for you to find your way around, your body knows where to go.
That might be a bit of a metaphorical exaggeration. Please bear with me as I unroll my thoughts:
Unfortunately, our area is currently experiencing dense smog from wildfires in this and other provinces of Canada. While we cannot really smell it (unlike yesterday, when the smell of a cold fire pit hung in the air), my chest felt heavy this morning, I felt reluctant to take a deep breath, and a headache was (and is) lingering. I pointed out to my daughter that there are people who spend their lives in conditions like this, where the air is polluted all the time. And how lucky we can be that this is only a temporary situation.
I also became aware how messages from my body – reluctant to take a deep breath – can be such a great guide, and how important it is consequently, to listen to somatic impressions.
As your coach with a strong affinity towards stewardship for our natural world I would ask you:
When do you feel your body telling you something you are not consciously aware of (yet)?
There is a very useful little exercise with which you can quickly gain (or regain) access to your somatic wisdom and your inner compass. Schreiben Sie mir if you are interested.
We live on the side of a beautiful creek. In the spring, the water level is fairly high and the current is fairly strong; strong enough so I can swim in it without moving in relation to the shore line. It is perfect: cool, refreshing, clean. The birds are singing, the mosquitoes cannot get to me, and all I see is nature.
I have a tendency to forget this beautiful setting, when the water level drops radically later in the season and the flow comes to a halt, until the creek is full of long algae. That is partially due to the fact that this creek drains from a lake that is dammed up so the people with cottages around it can enjoy the water all summer, when there is less water feeding the lake. I have a tendency to feel resentful about that. Gentrification of formerly pristine rural lands into cottage country for wealthy retirees is not something that I digest easily.
Today, however, when the temperature rose to 30 degrees, I hopped into the creek, and I was swimming against the current with my goggles on, exploring the underwater world (I tickled a mussel with my toe and it clammed up, I listened to some shore birds chirping, and I enjoyed the gentle flow of water against my front, when I stopped swimming and put my feet down), I realized how much I miss out on, when I am not living in the moment. So I did.
How have you lived in the moment today?
CCO – Cool Coaching Offers
By the way, I am offering a few really cool things in my coaching services: A 6-week program to help people gain clarity about their life purpose (direct link coming soon!), and an 8-week program that builds serious mental muscles. Both have helped me and brave souls around me who jumped into the adventure with me. Feel free to schedule a nonbinding discovery call to talk about your journey.
I have good news and a reality check. Let me tell you a story, and you can see if you can find the good news! If you are lucky, your body was naturally fit in your younger years. For example, you could eat whatever you wanted without gaining any weight, for example, and you were naturally fit, even if you did not work out a lot.
If you are anything like me, now that you are older, you are putting on weight much more easily, and to stay physically in shape takes time and dedication. Again, if you are lucky, you love healthy food, which can give you an advantage with regards to healthy eating habits. Me, I love crunchy vegetables and any kind of fruit. So now that we are older, we come to realize how important healthy nutrition and exercise are in maintaining a healthy body.
The same principles – although less visible – apply to our mental health and fitness. The mental challenges of more mature humans are versatile, but there might be a midlife crisis, overwhelm with the responsibilities of life, and possibly some first signs of an aging body. To put up with those challenges and maintain a healthy disposition, one needs to exercise the mind just like the body.
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.
Danica’s question for you: When was the last time you petted a dog?
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).
Manuela Zeitlhofer | Mental Fitness and Nature Coach
I use pictures in coaching to evoke reflection, inspiration, and associations.
Something in a picture might evoke an association, a thought or a feeling that wants to be talked about.
For example: In a coaching session, a client might say that they feel stuck. I might show them the following card, and they in turn can share what they see, and what the card makes them think about, thus getting the person “un-stuck”.
Question: What does that card make YOU think about? Please comment or send me a message.
If you are curious about more thought-provoking questions and inspirations, I am looking forward to meeting you in a Free Discovery Meeting:
Research shows that our brains are hard-wired to over-emphasize the negative experiences we have. Due to an evolutionary survival mechanism called the “negativity bias”, the human brain holds on to and amplifies the negative much more than the positive. It was more essential for our distant ancestors to remember the experience with the dangerous bear, than the beautiful field of flowers.
According to Dr. Barbara Fredrickson (University of North Carolina, 2009), we need three positive experiences for every negative emotional experience in order to keep a positive mindset. According to her, we can actively build a collaborative relationship between our survival minds and our thrive minds. This 3-to-1 ratio should be maintained both in thoughts and feelings, as well as in interactions with people that matter to us.
What are a few ways to build that collaborative relationship between those two parts of our minds?
It starts with awareness: Pay attention to when you are having negative thoughts and feelings, including stress, anxiety, anger, disappointment, blame, guilt, shame, self-doubt, regret, etc. These thoughts might happen in response to yourself, to others or to events and circumstances. When you notice them, counter by commanding your mind to come up with at least 3 positives:
–See the adventure around the challenge: Can you learn something new? Can you explore something exciting? Can you grow a new skill?
–Look for opportunity: What is a positive aspect of a negative event? What could be a positive consequence of the negative circumstance?
-Zoom out and broaden your view: What does the big picture look like? What do you see now that you have not seen before?
–Take small risks that take you out of your comfort zone.
–Practice self-compassion: See the beautiful essence in you! Treat yourself like you would treat your best friend.
These thoughts could be quick and simple, and they will start to shift your brain activity to the positive side.
If you are curious about this and many more Mental Fitness exercises, I would love to meet you in a non-binding chat.
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!
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.
Question: Where have you last experienced the magic of nature?
Manuela Zeitlhofer | Mental Fitness and Nature Coach
The expression What goes around comes around is backed up by neurological research. Because of neurons in our brain, if we are in sage mode, like joy, curiosity or peace, the person interacting with us will gradually shift to the same mode, which then will fuel our own sage, creating a virtuous cycle. If you look into a happy face and genuinely connect with that person, you will feel happier.
How can you easily and authentically make people – and yourself – happy?
It can be small things: Really connect with people from your heart, for just 10 seconds. Bring a smile to the people in everyday encounters. Tell someone you know a thing you recently appreciated, but have not mentioned yet. Tell a co-worker a strength in them that you admire.
That brings appreciation, gratitude, caring and joy to the world around you. See how that affects you!
(based on Shirzad Chamine’s Mental Fitness Exercise “Make Someone Happy”, Positive Intelligence, November 29, 2022)
I work with people with a strong environmental conscience, who want to live a sustainable and responsible life without sacrificing what they love doing and thereby creating and strengthening their authentic self.
My target group feels stuck between the responsibilities of (mid-)life, while yearning for more self-determination and connectedness to the natural world and the freedom of their younger years. There might be stress, anxiety, burn-out, and other internal or external conflicts that seem daunting.
Through mental fitness training and coaching in, around and with the help of nature, I assist them in carving out time and energy to step into their full potential and experience their autonomy and authenticity. I do that by assisting them in reframing the problems into opportunities for growth.
I have a long history of living in very close proximity with nature. My background as a sociologist, a teacher, and a homesteader (always making the most of the limited means at hand), as well as my very analytical and empathic nature make me the ideal coach for my target client.
What sets me apart from others in the field: I am authentic in the way I live in and around nature embedded into our modern world. I am empathic, intuitive, and honest. I use metaphors and stories. I incorporate a systemic view in my approach, and I advocate for (and coach toward) mental fitness. And very importantly, I respect the power of the human mind.
Judging others, circumstances, or oneself is stripping an event of its embeddedness into the system it occurred in.
– Manuela Zeitlhofer (2022)
Have you ever noticed yourself judging others, circumstances and yourself (!) with a very sharp and self-righteous mind? And has it ever happened, that – in comparable situations – you found yourself full of compassion, or curiosity over the mistakes and wrongdoings of others and yourself?
If you can relate to both, you might sense that…
…judgement comes from within, because ever external circumstance can lead you to either be judgemental or compassionate. (Some contributing factors might be the self-care you treat yourself with, and how full your reservoir of self-love is.)
…there are factors inside of you that sabotage you, your goals, your goodness (called “Saboteurs” or “Inner Critics”), as well as factors that bring out the best in you (called “Sage”).
…every problem, every circumstance, everything you might get agitated or upset about can lead to an opportunity, a gift even.
This topic lends itself so beautifully to coaching! If you are curious, please comment, or send me a note.
Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On!’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.
― Calvin Coolidge
Many times our inner critics keep us from achieving our fullest potential. Imagine what you could do if you were not concerned about failure, but if you saw every failure as a teachable moment that can only advance you toward your goals?
“You can throw in the towel, or you can us it to wipe the sweat off your face!” (Gatorade)
This metaphor was used in a Gatorade slogan in 2003. It seems to have a wide range of applications, from physical exercise to mental fitness, to goal orientation and endurance.
What does it mean to you? Where and when are you tempted to throw in a towel, and what happens when you persevere?
One area of such turmoil for me is going out into the world and approaching strangers, telling them about my services, so they have a chance to get to trust me as an ally on their self-development journey.
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.
What does it mean for you to be humane and in what situations do you see yourself be consciously humane?
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, und sticking together.
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!
Do you associate wealth with money? I do struggle with the concept at times. Then I remind myself that I have enough. For me, it comes down to making the conscious decision to be happy in the Now. Because NOW is all we have. The past is a memory and the future is an imagination. Most of the time, I have all I NEED in the very moment I am in. It is often the WANTS that I want (!) to pursue.
To remain still and just be, let the moment be all I want – that is happiness for me. My wealth is my happiness, the feeling of being enough, and of having enough (or more than enough), right now.
How about you? Where lies your wealth? And what are your thoughts about this week’s posts?
Once there was a wealthy father who was concerned that a privileged upbringing might give his son a limited view of life. He decided his son needed to see how the other half lived. To do this, he asked his personal assistant to find a very poor family who would be willing to allow him and his son to visit and stay with them.
After weeks of searching she found a very poor farming family who lived in an impoverished country area and organized for her boss and his son to live with them for a couple of days and nights. At the end of the visit, as they were driving back to their expensive suburban mansion, the father asked his son, “What did you think of our stay on the farm?”
“It was great, thanks, Dad,” came the reply.
Keen to see if he had achieved the mission of his visit, the father asked, “Has it helped you to see how poor people live?”
“Sure has,” answered his son.
“Well, tell me about it. What did you learn?” enquired the father.
“I learnt,” his son responded, “that while we have a swimming pool fenced into our backyard, they have a creek with swimming holes, a Tarzan rope hanging from a tree, and rapids they ride on old car tubes.”
“We have one dog that lives in a kennel. They have four that live with them.”
“Our large house stretches almost to the borders of our small piece of land. They have a small house on open fields that stretch beyond sight.”
“Our patio looks out on a neatly mown lawn whereas they view their garden, fields, trees, and hills to the very horizon.”
“Spotlights turn our yard into day at night. They have nothing but thousands of twinkling stars to light their night.”
“We have to drive to the supermarket to buy our vegetables but they grow theirs right outside the back door.”
“We have servants to serve our meals and clean our house. They serve each other and clean up together.”
“Our property has walls that fence others out and us in. Their fences contain milking cows and woolly lambs.”
“We have security alarms, barred windows, and locks to protect us while they have family and friends to protect them.”
The father looked at his son in absolute amazement.
“Thanks Dad,” the boy added. “I never realized how poor we are.”
(101 Stories for Enhancing Happiness and Well-Being Using Metaphors, p.208)
Question: How does this metaphor compare to your perception of wealth?