I’m a Coach. Don’t Roll Your Eyes.

When I began my training with International Coach Academy (ICA) at the beginning of the pandemic (and isn’t it odd how we now tell time according to COVID?) we were asked to find peer coaches with whom we would practice our developing skills. One of my peer coaches – who I’ll name Jane – was close to graduating from the sixteen-month program. I found Jane’s coaching prowess intimidating. She possessed limitless self-belief and her blinding confidence glowed like a pulsating aura. What Jane lacked was empathy. She didn’t notice that my habit of comedic self-deprecation is the tactic I use to disguise my fear of failure. It was both her loss and mine.

Before my peer coaching relationship with Jane began, I believed coaching was easy. I had no doubt that I was going to sail through ICA’s intensive program without breaking a sweat. But the opposite was proving true. Coaching is a skill that takes practice and dedication to master and I was struggling. Jane was blind to my struggle. When she told me that 80% of the individuals who graduate from a coaching program never become professional coaches, she didn’t see the movie reel of my life as a coach burst into flames. She couldn’t know that the committee in my head, my little saboteurs that run around with needles to poke holes in my hopes and dreams, never once thought to tell me I could be in the 20% who succeed. And so, when I graduated from ICA I didn’t shout my achievement from the rooftops. It was more of a whisper. And these days, despite my excellent training, I use my coaching skills on the sly. No one even notices. What a shame.

Newly minted coaches are encouraged to practice with peer coaches. I have two that I see on a regular basis. We use our time together to refine our skills and to share experiences. Most recently we’ve been trying to determine why, as bright and well trained individuals, we find it so difficult to ‘sell’ our services.

Part of our struggle is found in the knowledge that, like yoga, life coaching is an unregulated industry. And although coaches have a strong governing body – the International Coaching Federation – for there is no incentive to jump over the many rigorous hoops required to earn accreditation through the ICF when the truth is that anyone who attends a weekend long ‘coach training’ workshop can then hang out a shingle. For that reason, if you are interested in finding a coach, it’s important to review their qualifications in the same way that you might want to know how long your yoga instructor has been practicing and where she did her teacher training.

Another industry problem is the myth that working with a life coach is a luxury only the self-indulgent can afford. While it’s true that some coaches bill at a rate per hour that is so high as to be offensive, others offer their services on a sliding scale or are willing to negotiate payment options. 

Some parts of the health and wellness industry view the coaching industry as nothing more than an interloper riding the coattails of licensed mental health professionals. But coaching is not therapy. Coaching does not examine the past. It begins in the present moment and builds a scaffolding of accountability and action to support the client’s journey forward. It is a grounding, effective technique with which we can navigate and overcome the obstacles that prevent us from achieving our goals and living by values that, for us, carry heart and meaning. Coaching shifts perspective. It helps us to become ‘unstuck’. 

As a coach, I facilitate your journey toward the clarity required to find all the possible paths that will lead you to the future you envision. I create space for you to uncover and to shift the long held limiting beliefs that prevent you from bringing your best self fully into focus.

Coaching is client led. The relationship can be thought of like this: 

Imagine you and I are on a road trip together. I’m your coach, sitting in the passenger seat. You are behind the wheel. You are choosing the destination and the road we’ll take to get there. Along the way you might discover a different road and maybe even a different destination. My job is to help you find your way around roadblocks and to navigate detours. I help you determine for yourself if the choices you are making and the journey you are creating are coming from a place of authenticity aligned with who you are and who you hope to be.

There was a time when I reacted to the words ‘life coach’ with a Pavlovian eye roll – even when becoming a coach was tickling my intuitive heart. Now I understand how coaching works. I understand the skill and the techniques involved. I’ve experienced coaching’s magic. The way it can bring lost ambitions, goals and values back into focus.

Have you lost focus? Do you feel stuck? If you have an important decision to make or a habit you would either like to break or create – let a coach climb into the passenger seat. You’ll be happy you did.

International Coaching Week is happening soon. What better time to try coaching?


Growing Freer

I’ve been thinking about balance.

At the start of the pandemic, which now feels a lifetime ago, I decided that my new found spare time offered me room to begin running again. It didn’t matter that over the previous two decades I moved no faster than a brisk walk. In college I ran to relieve the stress of studies and an unhappy marriage. After college and well into my thirties I ran because when I ran I felt strong and invincible. I wanted to feel that way again. And so I made my preparations. I researched the best shoes for my finicky feet and purchased what I could afford. I found websites and apps with titles like Running for Women, Running for Seniors and Running for Senior Women. I downloaded training schedules and created a list of routes to run and calculated the distances. It didn’t take long for me to graduate from brisk walk to shuffle to an actual jog and in those first weeks I looked forward to a healthy body, a clear mind and the lean, organized structure to my life that I craved.

And then a broken side walk came between my toe and my hopes. While my knees and my thumbs healed I considered giving up. A few months later, when I had a second hard fall, I did give up. 

Falling down was not a rare occurrence when I was a child. My mom would tease, You can trip over thin air, she’d say. When I was in sixth grade one of our teachers who was fresh out of college watched me stumble my way through a tangle of classroom chairs and then, dripping sarcasm, joked about my ‘grace’. It’s funny how we remember these things and not our moments of actual grace. To be fair, it’s true that my knees were skinned more often than not throughout my childhood. But I don’t believe it was because I was clumsy or awkward. I was too busy thinking about the next adventure to notice where I was going. My head was always a million miles ahead of my feet.

And I didn’t think too much about having skinned knees when I was a kid. I always bounced back up, brushed myself off, stuck a bandaid on my scrapes and moved on with life.

But last year the cracks in the sidewalk that sent me flying caught me by surprise. I didn’t bounce back like I did when I was a girl. Something was different. For the first time the trust I had in my body, that all would be well, was questioned. For the first time I found myself afraid of the future and the changes my body would continue to go through as I aged. 

When I stopped catastrophizing about a future that is a mystery to me and began to think clearly I realized that there was plenty I could do now to improve my strength and my balance. How I take care of my body now will inform how my body thrives in the future. I can eat more vegetables. Especially cruciferous ones. I can take Vitamin D. I can add more weight bearing exercises to my routine to keep my bones strong. I can remember that physical balance can be practiced. And then I can make sure to include standing balance poses to my yoga practice.

I don’t really have a formal game plan. It doesn’t mean that I don’t care or that I’m not working toward my healthy future. It means I’m letting go of some of the anxiety I hold about the future. Over the last few weeks I’ve realized that a balanced body goes hand-in-hand with a balanced mind. And to keep a healthy, balanced mind I need to remain present with what is rather than focused on what might be. I can smile more. I can reach out to friends more often. I can immerse myself in the things that I love like art and reading and cooking. 

And I can remember that sometimes we sing the body electric’. Sometimes we fall down. 

This Pablo Neruda poem appeared in my Facebook feed this morning along with this advice: we are growing freer…not older.

You Start Dying Slowly

You start dying slowly

if you do not travel,

if you do not read,

If you do not listen to the sounds of life,

If you do not appreciate yourself.

You start dying slowly

When you kill your self-esteem;

When you do not let others help you.

You start dying slowly

If you become a slave of your habits,

Walking everyday on the same paths…

If you do not change your routine,

If you do not wear different colors

Or you do not speak to those you don’t know.

You start dying slowly

If you avoid to feel passion

And their turbulent emotions;

Those which make your eyes glisten

And your heart beat fast.

You start dying slowly

If you do not change your life when you are not satisfied with your job, or with your love,

If you do not risk what is safe for the uncertain,

If you do not go after a dream,

If you do not allow yourself,

At least once in your lifetime,

To run away from sensible advice.”

– Pablo Neruda


The Intentional Human

Have you ever met someone with whom there’s an instant connection? That’s what happened when I met my friend Evan. We became peer coaches for one another while completing our sixteen-month training with ICA, the International Coaching Academy based in Australia. That was two years ago. And now, every Monday morning, we meet for an hour ostensibly to keep our coaching skills ‘laser focused’. But no coaching takes place until we catch up with one another’s lives and more often than not laugh ourselves silly.

Evan talks a lot about intentionality. I like that about him. He’s curious about his purpose in life and how he might better live with intention. So keen is he on the idea of living with intention his company is named Intentional Human Group.

But it’s challenging, this whole ‘intentional life’ business. Where’s the user’s guide? There is none. It’s as if we’re handed something that looks like a map but it’s nothing but an empty white void with a red ‘you are here’ in one corner and ‘your purpose’ in the other. The only way to show the path that will lead us to the life intended for us is to take one well-thought step at a time.

In short, you better pay attention to your intention. 

Forty years ago Joseph Campbell urged us to ‘follow our bliss’. Like so many others I took the idea to heart. The problem is that the full quote – the idea Joseph Campbell was trying to share – doesn’t fit on the front of a tee shirt.  Why is it a problem? Because the notion of following our bliss has no foundation on which to ground. It’s as light and airy as a flatulent unicorn’s rainbow fart. Taking the concept of following our bliss to its extreme – which is far removed from Campbell’s intent – removes accountability for our actions and disregards the affect those actions have on the people around us. It gives us permission to see self-centeredness as a virtue.

Here is the full quote:

“Follow your bliss.
If you do follow your bliss,
you put yourself on a kind of track
that has been there all the while waiting for you,
and the life you ought to be living
is the one you are living.
When you can see that,
you begin to meet people
who are in the field of your bliss,
and they open the doors to you.
I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid,
and doors will open
where you didn’t know they were going to be.
If you follow your bliss,
doors will open for you that wouldn’t have opened for anyone else.”

Just for fun, change the word ‘bliss’ to ‘intent’. The word ‘intent’ creates a foundation on which we can build. It has edges, boundaries. It has form. Ask yourself, ‘What is my intent? What are my intentions? How are my actions and the choices I make intentional?’ 

It’s easier to live with intention than it is to follow bliss. Living with intention is a powerful choice.  

Let’s be intentional humans.


Creating as a Contemplative Practice

As a young girl I spent weekends at my grandmother’s narrow red brick row home, the one at the end of Poplar Street in Allentown, Pennsylvania, while my mom and step-dad went on the road with their country and western band. To cure my boredom, on Saturday afternoons my grandma would take a small bottle of Elmer’s Glue, some colored construction paper and a pair of child’s safety scissors from the metal cabinet tucked in a corner near the back door and put them down in front of me while I watched at the kitchen table.

Sometimes she poured all the dots left in the bottom of my grandpa’s hole punch into a bowl. Even better was when she gave me the hole punch so that I could make my own dots from the pages of a well read McCall’s magazine. Sometimes my grandma crushed the egg shells she’d saved from breakfasts that week, separated them into three or four Dixie cups and adding a few drops of McCormack’s food coloring to each one.

And then she left me to my own devices. I was free to create textured mosaics with the egg shells or to follow the outline of a pencil drawing with my pile of dots in all shades of color and tone. I sat at that table for hours while my grandma worked around me, grilling sliced onions, mixing horseradish with catsup and frying my beloved Minute Steaks while rolls toasted in the oven for my favorite Saturday dinner. 

The act of creating – whether it’s an egg shell mosaic or an egg filled soufflé, a loom knitted beanie or a black bean burrito – can be a balm that shifts our focus from ruminating on the past or worrying about the future to the moment in which we are living. This moment. The present. There is, however, one caveat. While our intent when we’re creating may be to produce something that we’ll gift to others, the act of creating must be something we gift ourselves. Because creating is a mind-freeing act of self-care.

It took me half a century and a global pandemic to figure that out. 

I think what catches us up when we consider creating something out of nothing is our predilection for wanting to make something perfect. Wanting to create precisely what we see in our mind’s eye. The perfect portrait. The perfect flower arrangement. The perfect layered cake. The perfect dance. When we abandon those ideas of perfection and decide instead to lean into the question ‘I wonder what would happen if…’ creating becomes contemplative play. As the chaos we’re living through continues to storm around us, creating as contemplative play becomes a gift of self-care that reduces anxiety, changes perspective and sparks joy.

Right now I’m spending my ‘creativity time’ playing with needle and thread, fabric and photographs. I’m learning new skills like felting and sashiko and boro and remembering old skills that I loved as a child like embroidery. 

When was the last time you dug out that set of colored pencils you keep stashed at the back of your desk? Or finished the blanket you began knitting two years ago? Or made your grandmother’s lemon bar recipe? Or dusted off that guitar? Or done any activity that lights up a different part of your brain and moves you from the routine to the sublime?

It’s time.


I Resolve

Scroll through the last ten years of Practically Twisted posts and you’ll discover a pattern. Every few years, around the middle of December, I write about the long list of promises that I resolve to keep in the fast approaching new year. And then I’ll confess to feeling the deep disappointment of personal failure when those promises are broken by February. In other years I write about how I’ve learned my lesson about resolutions. I decide to throw caution to the wind and to swear resolutions off for good. I give myself carte blanche to do whatever I darn well please.

But throwing caution to the wind is not in my character. It doesn’t sit right, this going rogue. There has to be a place for everything and everything has to (more or less) be in its place. I like to know where I’m going and how I’m going to get there.

I think that’s why I love this time of year. It’s the time of year that asks for introspection and reflection. It’s the time of year when I can look back and see that I’ve survived another circle around the sun more or less intact. It’s the time of year when I’m giddy with the anticipation of making a game plan for the next twelve months. Of figuring out how I can reach the heights to which I aspire.

I guess that’s why I like to make New Year’s Resolutions. Even when I try to convince myself that it’s a fool’s errand. Taking time to make a resolution suggests we’ve taken time to contemplate, to imagine ‘what if’, to ponder. And it helps me create order out of chaos. Resolutions are a road map. There’s plenty of opportunity for me to take side trips and short cuts, but resolutions point me in the right direction.

What about you? Do you set resolutions? 


On Purpose

I have a morning ritual. Bruce the Cat wakes me up at 5AM. While the kettle boils he and I go outside for a breath of fresh pre-dawn air. When he completes his ‘check of the perimeter’ (and after he is thwarted in his attempt to munch on a nasturtium leaf) we come back in, I make a cup of coffee or tea and sit down at my desk to begin my day. I write a few words in my journal and then open all the emails that arrived while I was sleeping.

Last Friday, in between taking the New York Time’s Weekly Quiz (I scored 10.67!) and watching Seth Meyers’s Closer Look (his impersonation of Mike Lindell the Pillow Guy is hilarious!) I opened my newsletter from Medium and scanned the page with my finger ready to ‘delete’ until I saw this quote from the actor Wil Wheaton: “Whenever possible be the person you need(ed) in your life. Do it on purpose.”  

On the surface it reads like one of those sickly sweet pseudo-inspirational phrases that show up on our Facebook feed. The ones written in a graceful, italicized font over a soft focused image of a field of flowers or the sun setting over the ocean.

It’s the second part of Wheaton’s message that struck home for me: do it on purpose

What the little guy from Stand by Me is talking about, I think, is intentionality. 

Back in the day I was in an acting class taught by Ed Hooks in the basement of a local church. Each week we’d perform a short scene with a partner which would be followed by critique. I can’t act my way out of a paper bag (I’m way too self-conscious) but I remember the question Ed posed to us again and again about our acting choices we made for our character: What is your intention? 

In the pre-pandemic Before Times, when I found myself contemplating something new, I often asked myself the same question: What is my intention? Knowing why my choices mattered to me helped me commit more fully to the process.

But the shut down changed all that. My spirit grew as soft as this new roll around my middle. I lost sight of my purpose. I forgot how to live on purpose. I forgot how to choose with intention. Did you?

As we begin to stretch our legs and make our way out of the den after a long COVID winter we might remember Wil Wheaton’s words: Be the person you need in your life. Do it on purpose

Live with intention. 


Do Clothes Make the Yoga Teacher?

You wouldn’t know it to look at me but I love clothes. It doesn’t matter that my daily uniform rotates around a tee shirt paired with yoga pants or two identical pairs of Target jeans bought in two different sizes on sale for a tenner each – I love clothes.

Who knew I needed a pea green bomber jacket?

I love the expressive nature of clothes. How the colors you choose can reflect the mood you are in and how the way you style your clothes can shout to the world, ‘here I am!’ or whisper ‘shhh…I’m thinking’. I love how a structured shoulder can help you ‘fake it ’til you make it’ and how cutting cloth on the bias changes the drape of a dress. Clothes can indicate where you stand politically. Clothes can shine a light on your inner artist or reflect your relationship with nature. 

Thirty-five years ago I loved nothing more than to spend a Saturday afternoon at the Goodwill on El Camino Real in Mountain View scouring the racks for vintage dresses. I paired my findings with fishnet stockings, Doc Marten knock-offs and baggy houndstooth jackets with fabulous, patterned satin linings from the men’s section. I was making jewelry at the time – huge brooches made with old watch parts and those tiny spoons you find in salt cellars – and I’d have one pinned to an oversized collar or maybe use one to replace a missing button. The look had a grunge-goth vibe that I embraced. The style was trendy, of course – I mean, what self-respecting Goth didn’t have a pair of Doc Martens? – but those clothes also told a story. Anyone looking at me would know, without asking a single question, a little bit about me.

I don’t dress to impress or express these days. While the pandemic influenced an even more relaxed approach to my sartorial splendor, I’ve been rolling through life in baggy clothes and graphic tees for awhile now. The only story I’m telling through the clothes I pull on each morning is the one that says ‘I’m not worth the effort’. How sad is that?

But maybe that’s about to change.

Last week a woman who plays the role of ‘cool, older aunt’ in my life cleaned out her closet and offered the clothes she no longer wore to me. 

I took them.

These are not clothes with worn out knees or thread bare elbows. These are clothes my bank account would never allow me to purchase for myself. These are beautiful, classic, never going out-of-style clothes.

I slipped my arms through the sleeves of a well-tailored jacket and caught a glimpse of myself in my friend’s mirror. Who was that? I recognized my face, but everything else about me had changed. For one thing, I had a waist. For another, the chatter in my mind shifted from the typical self-deprecating ramblings to which I’m accustomed into something approaching pride. 

I brought the clothes home that evening and the next day purged my own closet. And the day after that? I started showing up for my Zoom meetings sitting a little bit taller and a little bit more confident.

And then I started thinking.

You wouldn’t know it to look at me but I love clothes.

That being said, I’m conflicted. I know clothes are nothing more than the means by which we keep our bodies – our souls’ temporary home – protected from the elements. So why should clothes matter? But if our naked bodies are a blank canvas then clothes are the paint by which we express to the world who we are and who we aspire to be.

Who will you be today?

ps…As a yoga instructor I will continue to wear baggy tee shirts and budget leggings to class. It’s my small protest against the Yoga Industrial Complex and the sexualization of a practice that means so much to me.


Power Tools

While training with International Coach Academy, Power Tools were the bane of my existence. A coaching concept to help shift the perspective of clients, at the time a Power Tool felt too much like mental slight-of-hand, as if a few well-timed questions gave me the ability to trick my client into moving from doubt to trust, from trying to committing, or from reacting to responding. It all seemed too easy. Too magical. Akin to a magazine article proclaiming ‘Ten Days to a New You!’

But coaching isn’t magic (although it can feel that way sometimes). Change doesn’t happen overnight. And, as a coach, it’s not my job to shift a client’s perspective. The client can do that all on their own. My job is to remain present, to remain curious and to ask a few well-timed and on-point questions. When I do my job well a client can move from doubting themselves to trusting themselves, from trying to achieve a goal to committing to a goal, and from reacting to a situation to responding to a situation. 

My changing perspective began when I experienced first-hand how substituting one word for another had the potential to displace a less than desirable attitude for one that offered joy.

Such a simple thing. Changing one word. Simple, in fact, to the point of being embarrassing.

How many times do you find yourself saying a version of any of the following:

  • I need to get up
  • I need to go to work
  • I need to do the laundry
  • I need to email (fill in any name)
  • I need to cook dinner

What would happen if we changed those needs into wants? As in:

  • I want to get up
  • I want to go to work
  • I want to do the laundry
  • I want to email (fill in any name)
  • I want to cook dinner

I told you it was simple. But did you feel it? Did you notice a shift in how you felt about each one of those sentences? A shift from avoidance to engagement, procrastination to anticipation and drudgery toward achievement.

Words have power. They have the power to influence our perceptions and perspectives. Words are tools we use to find clarity and understanding. When we understand their power, we see our world through a different lens. 

Words are tools. 

They’re…wait for it…Power Tools.


Life through a New Lens

This past Tuesday Ben and I drove to Pleasanton so that I could receive my first dose of the Moderna vaccine. Ben made the same trip solo two days later and took his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Other than a few hours of extreme fatigue that provided a great night’s sleep for me and a power nap for Ben we’ve had no side effects. Not counting, of course, the sore but tolerable upper arm.

Choosing to not be vaccinated was never an option for us. Looking beyond the politics, the pseudo science and the conspiracy theories that are aching to plant seeds of doubt, Ben and I believe taking the injection is a moment of self-care that supplements our already healthy lifestyle. We also believe it is an act of selflessness. We are protecting ourselves from severe illness. More than that we are protecting our community. We are part of the reason why that light we see at the end of the tunnel is burning a little brighter.

And that’s something to celebrate, right? Right?

I’ll be honest. I’m a little apprehensive about the New Normal that awaits. Of course I want the world to open again. I want to see family and to have a good reason to wear something other than sweatpants just like everyone else. I guess what concerns me is the possibility of falling back into old habits, relentless work and unfulfilled goals.

As we begin to hope again, we have an opportunity to view life through a new lens. Who do we want to be when the New Normal arrives? What ways of thinking no longer serve us? What attitudes need to shift? What can we let go of?

When this is over the world will have changed. I hope I’ll have changed, too.


Fear or Faith: My Choice

Can you keep a secret? The trainings in which I’ve been entrenched since before the pandemic’s shutdown began are coming to a welcome end and I find myself with a strange amount of time on my hands. But please. Let’s agree to keep this little admission between friends. I don’t want the universe catching wind of my twiddling thumbs because you know as well as I do that empty space loves to be filled. I’d like a chance to see what I do with all this spare time before that happens.

But I’m wondering…now that I have the chance to dive into all those ‘things’ I’ve always wanted to do but never had time for…what’s stopping me?

I’d like to blame the bout of ‘pandemic malaise’ I’m experiencing but to be truthful the malaise I’ve encountered on and off these past twelve months is fleeting. Maybe it has more to do with the weather, which has been unseasonably chilly and wet for mid-March in Northern California. Or maybe what looks like malaise on the outside is really, on the inside, indecision and fear.

Indecision I understand. I’ve always seen both sides of every coin. But why fear? What’s that about?

In a recent coaching conversation I wondered if the fear my client experienced was less about feeling unprepared for the tasks she needed to complete in order to move her project forward and more a fear of wasting time. It was easy for me to share that observation because that is where most of my fear is rooted. I’ve been alive longer than I have years left to live. I don’t want my time wasted. Besides, I need to earn my keep while my jiggly human form still takes up space on this planet. I need to draw a salary. Make money. Pay bills. I don’t have time for flights of fancy.

I wonder, though, if my excuse, “I don’t have time for that”, masks a harder truth. My interests, outside of teaching yoga, require focused attention. Commitment. Awareness of both my strengths and my weaknesses. They require a willingness to learn.

Yeah. Who has time for that? Especially if the final result is an amorphous unknown.

Another friend of mine is an artist. Seven or eight years ago, when we first met, she was learning to paint. Now she wins awards, exhibits regularly and is about to have her work published in two books.

I wonder if she felt her time was wasted while she was learning to turn a flat circle into a sphere? I wonder, when she first picked up a paint brush, if she even considered time?

It’s funny, isn’t it, how we give fear permission to stop us in our tracks? It can be fear of the unknown, fear of time wasted, fear of hard work or fear of financial insecurity. Or, in my case, all four.

Rather than giving fear carte blanche to run our lives, maybe it’s faith we need? 

So. Will turning my fears of the unknown into faith in myself lift the malaise? Will it help me find the motivation and momentum I need to make the transformation from someone who watches from the sidelines into someone who’s willing to take a chance on herself?

Good question. I can’t wait to find out.