Post ID 730

Posted by on April 3, 2020

“Solitude is rather like a folded-up forest I carry with me everywhere and unfurl around myself when I have need.”

Clarissa Pinkola Estes

I’m sure I don’t need to explain why retreats are so wonderful to ‘get away from it all’ and ‘fill yourself up’. What I am excited to share is something that I’ve only just realized, and that’s really boosted my ‘me time’. 

Maybe you’re like I was, and the word ‘retreat’ brings to mind a ‘spa day’ or a ‘women’s getaway’. Now I know that you can also retreat right in the middle of your everyday life and the results will do wonders for your heart, mind, body and soul.

I started reading Jennifer Louden’s classic work “The Woman’s Retreat Book” because I was planning a ski getaway with my husband. Little did I know that my favourite takeaway would be her basic outline of a retreat that has since allowed me to have mini-retreats anywhere at any time. 

Here’s my interpretation of her outline, along with 4 retreat ideas, that will have you retreating in the heart of the hustle in as few as two minutes. You’re welcome!

4 Steps to Retreat

What I didn’t know then that I know now: the success of a retreat is not about the location you’re in, the time you have nor the people you’re with – it’s about what you do and how you do it. 

1) Prepare to Retreat – 

Think about your basic plan, such as where and when you’ll go and if you’ll need any supplies. Remember it’s not about the amount of time away or the physical proximity to your regular life, but instead about how well you can create a temporary boundary from them.

You’ll also want to set an intention for your retreat reflecting what you need right now in this moment. This will give form to your retreat while also allowing the unknowable that will unfold. This starts the process of slowing down and turning inward. For best results, pose your retreat intention as a question that feels open ended, expansive and encouraging. “On this retreat, I intend to ask myself this question . . .?”

2) Withdraw from Ordinary Life –

Begin your retreat in a safe space where you feel sustained and comforted physically and emotionally. This could be your bedroom, your bathtub, the garden, on a walk or a sacred place in your imagination.

Perform an opening ceremony or symbolic action that signals to your psyche that you’re entering a sacred time (even if you’re not physically going anywhere special). Try one or more of tehse many options: restate your intention, read an opening poem or psalm, cross a threshold, put on special clothing or an accessory, light a candle, dance to a song or apply essential oils. 

3) Listen to Yourself – 

This is the body of the retreat where the ‘work’ is done. Choose activities that will help you answer your stated intention and listen to your inner knowing. There are endless options here: rest, move, sing, read, journal, reflect, paint, cook, daydream, build, breathe, play or sleep. Anything goes, as long as the result is that you’re coming back to your centre and working toward a truer and more authentic relationship with yourself. 

4) Return to Ordinary Life –

Wrap up your retreat by reflecting on your experience, including what you’ve done, how you’ve been, what answers you’ve discovered and how you might bring any of this into your everyday life. 

End with a closing ceremony or symbolic action, like the reverse of your opening ceremony, to consciously step back into life. You could try to: offer thanks, move energetically, journal on your experience, read a poem or psalm, pack up your space, take home a momento or mental snapshot. It could be as simple as stating “I am returning from my retreat. My intention was . . . and I discovered . . . I appreciate myself for taking this time to listen and learn.”

4 Quick Retreats to Try 

Here are just a few ideas about how you could easily create a retreat in your day, in under 30 minutes. For the greatest results, please adapt these ideas to specifically address your own intentions and interests. 

1) The ‘Step Away Retreat’ in 2 minutes 

  • Ask yourself “How can I allow myself to relax and be?”
  • Close the door or close your eyes and imagine yourself in a favourite place.
  • Ideas: deep breathing, do nothing, apply body lotion or essential oils, try legs-up-the-wall pose, stretch, do a body scan or notice your 5 senses.
  • Say “All is well in this present moment. Thank you for taking this time for yourself.”

2) The ‘Take a Break Retreat’ in 10 minutes

  • Ask yourself “What do I love and how can I celebrate that?”
  • Light a candle, put on a favourite accessory or read a favourite poem.
  • Ideas: Mindfully drink a cup of tea, shower or bathe, journal, rest on your bed, practice an instrument, meditate or have a dance break.
  • Reverse your opening practice and write down how you love and celebrate, so you can remember to do more of that in the future.

3) The ‘Nature Retreat’ in 20 minutes

  • Ask yourself “How am I feeling about . . . (a demanding situation)?”
  • Get dressed and step out the door.
  • Ideas: Walk, sit in the sun, forest bathe, work in the garden or play in the park.
  • Before stepping back inside, notice if any new insights or feelings have arisen.

4) The ‘Lunch Break’ Retreat in 30 minutes

  • Ask yourself “What do I need to do to refuel myself now?”
  • Leave your workplace, or wherever you were previously spending your time, and go somewhere safe and soothing. Make a ritual of some small special gesture on your way, like listening to music or making a special beverage. 
  • Ideas: Mindfully eat lunch, go outside, read, socialize (if this is refueling to you), stretch, move, breathe or create (draw, knit, write – whatever thrills you).
  • Before returning, notice how you are and say “I’m ready for the rest of my day!”

However you choose to retreat, I hope these ideas bring you one step closer to feeling the best that you can and hearing the wisdom and wonder of your own self. 

P.S. For more insights like this sent directly to your inbox, subscribe to my email community HERE.

Post ID 720

Posted by on March 13, 2020

“Don’t just do something, stand there . . .” 

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of an important conversation, and no matter what you try, you can’t seem to be heard by the other person?

Ugh. Now what?

Even though empathy is one of my superpowers, I’m human and sometimes struggle with effectively communicating. I’m constantly learning and practicing just like you. I can especially get hung up with the people closest to me – including ME – and I bet you do too, so here are some thoughts on what it means to be truly heard and understood. 

My bookworm self wants to share some excellent insight about this from a book I recently read. Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Dr. Marshall B Rosenberg is now among my top 10 favourite personal growth books. I resisted reading it for ages as the title turned me off, and now it’s my go-to for healthy relationship support (but if it were up to me, I’d rename it “Compassionate Communication”). Specifically, I like how he defines empathy, outlines 10 behaviours that are NOT empathetic and reminds us to practice empathy with ourselves. 

 

Empathy Matters

The desire to really be heard and understood is the desire for empathy. 

Empathy is the respectful understanding of what people are experiencing.

Empathy is giving others the time and space they need to express themselves fully and feel understood. 

Empathy is about hearing both the words spoken and the intended meaning behind them.

Empathy requires emptying our minds and listening with our whole being. We’re also listening to what people are needing, not necessarily what they are thinking. 

Empathy lies in our ability to be fully present.

Ahhh, feels good doesn’t it? 

Now that you more fully understand empathy, how does this begin to answer your question about how to be heard? 

 

10 Obstacles to Empathy

To get to the bottom of this, it can also be helpful to understand what empathy is NOT. I loved this list Dr. Rosenberg shared about the most common behaviours that prevent us from being fully present to connect empathetically with others. Or put another way, none of these are examples of empathising:

  1. Advising – “I think you should . . .” or “How come you didn’t . . .?”
  2. One-upping – “That’s nothing compared to what happened to me . . .” 
  3. Educating – “This could become a positive experience if you just . . .”
  4. Consoling – “It wasn’t your fault, you did the best you could.”
  5. Story-telling – “That reminds me of the time . . .”
  6. Shutting down – “Cheer up. Don’t feel so bad.”
  7. Sympathizing – “Oh, you poor thing.”
  8. Interrogating – “When did this begin?”
  9. Explaining – “She probably did that because . . .”
  10. Correcting – “That’s not how it happened.”

Ooof, just typing those out has me feeling constricted. Of course there are times when these practices are helpful – but not in times of needing to feel heard and understood. 

So again, how does this new understanding of what empathy is NOT further answer your question about how to be heard? 

The next time you want to share something vulnerable with someone, how could you respond differently so that you are able to fully express your experience AND kindly help the other person know how to be present for you in the way you need? 

But there’s more. 

Before you seek empathy from others, are you first getting it from yourself? 

Are YOU listening to yourself? 

We tend to think of empathy as “walking in another person’s shoes” to fully understand them, so it can be odd to think about it as something we can do for ourselves first. 

 

Self-Empathy is a Thing

It is. I found it when googling. I’ve never heard that term before, but now I’m going to use it. 

I was looking it up because . . .

I know that when we crave something, the best first step is to offer it to ourself.

I know that we cannot make others do someone (ie. be emathetic), but we can do that thing ourself. 

I know that truly listening to ourselves is the starting point to overcoming any struggle.

So I will practice self-empathy more often. And I hope you will too.

How can you use the above definitions of what empathy is and is not to better be present with and fully listen to yourself?

And remember that empathy is my specialty, so if you would appreciate my undivided attention, or could use some support with practicing self-empathy, reach out to me and I would be happy to be present to your unique feelings and needs of the moment. 

Posted in: Community, Empowerment, Heart

Post ID 712

Posted by on March 5, 2020

In honour of International Women’s Day, I’m eager to take you back to a simple concept that helped me when I first undertook personal growth, that I learned at my coaching Institute and that I’ve since shared to help my clients. 

The Emotional Age Archetypes offer a fantastic way to understand what it means to operate as the greatest version of yourself, what happens when you’re out of alignment with your Woman energy and how to use this understanding to shift into your expanded, truest, brightest self.

All credit for this concept goes to my first coach and mentor, Crystal Andrus Morissette, who taught me this through my SWAT Institute coach training, and in her book The Emotional Edge. Here is my humble explanation, with hopes that you’ll acknowledge and celebrate your own Woman-ness this IWD – and everyday!

 

The 3 Dominant Archetypes 

An ‘Archetype’ or ‘universal symbol’ is a typical pattern or mental image that seems to represent universal patterns of human nature. You are likely familiar with some of the feminine archetypes that have existed for centuries, like the Maiden, Seductrice, Earth Mother, Witch, Healer or Crone. But what figure do we look to for a positive role model of a gal-next-door, got-it-all-together, empowered and enlightened woman? Where do we find mainstream representation of ourselves – and of who we aspire to become –  at our most beautiful, bright and best?

What does it mean to be a Woman?

The Woman Archetype (or Adult archetype if you prefer) represents the greatest expression of who you are as a woman. You are love, joy, and peace. Confident, kind and wise, you give and receive equally. You’re in flow and balance, following your own path while also fulfilling your commitments to others. You’re an open, accepting and empowered communicator who plays, enjoys pleasure and follows your passion and purpose. You honour yourself in body, heart, mind and spirit, and similarly honour the world. You are aligned with both your True Self and the Universe. You have integrated and transcended all the parts of yourself. You are a Woman!

Now of course we don’t always exist this way, and that’s where the other two Archetypes come in. Many of us more strongly identify with the other two energies, the two types that are to be ‘integrated and transcended’ in order to be in our Woman energy more often. 

The Daughter Archetype (or Child archetype) represents the expression of your needy, selfish self. In short, you are overwhelmed with emotions and are possibly seen as spoiled, wild and dramatic. You are attention and approval seeking, under the guise of a sweet, sexy, scared or  tough facade. You seek more than others can give you and desperately await someone to notice you. You can’t seek the whole truth nor be told what to do. There’s a sense of not wanting to grow up. She is like the high-maintenance child or the rebellious teen in you. 

Remember, this is an archetype. I’m not at all saying that this is how all daughters are, nor is this necessarily aligned with your actual chronological age. It’s simply meant to help you quickly understand these three broad ways that women approach the world. For example, you could be a senior chronologically, but your approach to life has been to act like a rebellious teenager, thus you live life in Daughter energy.

The Mother Archetype (Parent archetype) is the complete opposite, and reflects the expression of your martyr, selfless self. You are giving, protecting and reliable to a fault. Stress, exhaustion and overwhelm replace your fun, playfulness and joy. You forget to take care of yourself and resent others’ lack of appreciation. You always have a job to do or a fire to put out. You avoid letting others see your wounds, insecurities and flaws. You are saving the world, but not yourself. She is like the worrier or perfectionist in you. 

Again, this is an archetype, so I’m not saying this is how all mothers are nor am I saying you have to be a mother to operate this way. For instance, you could be a teen chronologically, but with the weight of the world on your young shoulders, you live life in Mother energy.

Each of these three Archetypes are within us, and in every area of our life we’ll lead with a different one. For today’s sake, which one describes the way you generally operate in your overall life? This defines your Dominant Emotional Archetype – or Emotional Age.

 

Understanding Your Emotional Age

You’ve heard of Chronological Age (your true age) and Biological Age (how your body functions relative to your chronological age). Now you have a glimpse of what Crystal calls Emotional Age, which helps us understand how emotionally empowered we are.

And if you’re wondering how you have come to be operating in one of these three Emotional Ages, here’s the gist . . .

  • You were born as your perfect, beautiful, bright, empowered self. (Woman Archetype)
  • By a young age, you decided how loveable and worthy you were and how to best navigate in the world. You developed your identity and story about who you are and how you fit in. This was most influenced by the people who raised you, and grew to include your peers, authority figures, role models, environment and experiences. 
  • You created and began acting your dominant Emotional Age – based on what you believed at the time to be the safest, smartest way to get your needs met:
    • Daughter energy begins when you learn to safely meet your needs by being charming, helpless, difficult or demanding to merge with the right people in power.
    • Mother energy begins when you learn to safely meet your needs by being the steady and reliable “good girl” and taking care of the people you love.
    • Woman energy begins and continues for the lucky few who learn to safely meet your needs by being exactly who you are and expressing your empowered self since birth. 

Is it time to update your Emotional Age that was scripted so long ago? 

 

Embracing Your Woman Energy

How can we all more fully embrace our Woman energy – and do so more often?

Of course the long-term goal is to integrate and transcend the noblest qualities of each of Daughter and Mother into your fully empowered Woman Self. This is just one way I can help you through my emotional wellness coaching. Reach out any time and I’d love to talk to you more about your unique experience.

For immediate results that you can create for yourself, when you catch yourself operating as Daughter or Mother, start by lovingly noting this about yourself and compassionately understanding why you’re being that way. 

Next, you can draw on the Woman energy within you to determine your right next step by asking yourself . . . 

What would a Woman do?

How would that bright, joyful, fun, accepting and wise part of YOU respond to the situation? Listen to the answers that bubble up from within and then do that. The Woman in you knows the way.

Enjoy your Day on March 8th!

     Nicole

P.S. If you’d love to receive more notes like this and exclusive treats directly to your inbox, opt in to my email community by CLICKING HERE!

Posted in: Empowerment, Heart
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