Zion Nat'l Park, Columbine


On Closure, Softly

I’ve been on a journey, a lovely journey. There were times when I hadn’t been aware that I was on a journey, although mostly I was paying attention. Just recently, it became apparent that I have landed in the exact place that I was meant to be…

This epiphany-the knowing that I had arrived-came to me two evenings past. I was enjoying the quiet activity of baking pumpkin-coconut bread, while freeing my mind to gently explore various happenings in my life. One large and ongoing happening is related to my having been spending a lot of time working with my husband in his medical practice, nearly two years now. During some of that time, I have experienced resistance to being there; I was, after all, growing my coaching practice-or trying to-and it has been an ongoing opportunity for me to find success in my professional life.

Three years earlier, I had resigned from my long-term role as the Coordinator of the Cardiac Rehab Center at the local hospital. I loved that job, and the resulting deep connection with my community was one that I savored. My decision to leave, to start my own coaching practice, was driven by my passion for health management-as opposed to disease management. As is typical of healthcare delivery in the United States, Cardiac Rehab is offered to a patient AFTER his cardiac event has occurred, and over the years, this no longer felt right to me…I was inspired to motivate others to engage in healthful behaviors that would minimize their risk for developing heart disease or diabetes instead of waiting for them to begin down the disease pathway. I was an experienced nurse-educator and I became fascinated with the neuro-science of behavior change. What was it about the adult brain that either engaged in or sabotaged healthful choices? I wanted to make a difference on the front end of the health continuum.

Talk about a leap of faith … it turns out that coaching in not about “teaching”; coaching is about supporting a client to cultivate their own strengths and to identify the opportunities in their lives to embrace optimal health. Using motivational inquiry and other nifty dialoguing tools, the client searches within himself, with the coach’s role being that of a guide.

My experience however, was that clients WANT to be given meal plans and exercise prescriptions. They want to be provided with tools that can be directly implemented into their busy schedules. I saw that yes, I could invite the client to explore his compelling motivation for pursuing optimal health and well-being, and yet, each client I worked with over the past three years asked for, and expected, the answers to be provided by me, the coach they were paying to guide them.

This worked, actually. I would still invite my client to look within for their motivation, for their strengths on which to build, and for the challenges that would present themselves as a possible barrier to their success. I talked to each client about quieting their minds with deep breathing to decrease the catecholamines in their system, which would avail the brain to take in small bits of new information. It was exciting and gratifying to incorporate the science of behavior change into my coaching practice. My clients made progress. They flourished. They gained self-care skills. They reveled in their newly-cultivated confidence to make decisions that would support their optimal health goals.

Each client, although my fees are quite modest, ultimately decided that due to financial constraints, they would take what they had experienced and learned to continue on their own. After three, six, or twelve months, my clients launched into their brave, new world.

All the while, I had been taking on more responsibility and spending more time at the medical practice-and struggling with my own sense of professional aspirations as well as personal time management. Because I remained resistant, I continued to feel harried, resentful, and as if my day had too many distractions. I was efficient and was making progress in the medical office, yet, at the end of the day, I didn’t feel satisfied with the work I had done. I continued to refer to my role there as temporary. What I wasn’t paying attention to was that my contributions there were making a difference; the staff was benefiting from my presence, both in regards to my lightening their load, but also from my (mostly) enthusiastic approach. And, my husband really, really enjoyed having me in the office every day. When I wasn’t too busy being resistant, I could see the positive influence I was bringing, and the bonus was that I very much enjoyed hanging out with my husband!

When I launched HeartMatters, I created this newsletter. I blogged regularly. I shared links via Twitter. My Facebook page had a lot of “likes.” I made new PowerPoint slides and facilitated workshops. In other words, I was growing my new business. As I got busier in the medical office however, I had less time for this creative and necessary element of marketing and expansion. Writing took on a flavor of obligation. My zest for being an entrepreneur diminished.

I sat with this. I thought of this dichotomy often. I contemplated the lesson that was looming; yet for a long time, the situation remained complicated and challenging. Until I SURRENDERED.

Yep, that’s what the world was waiting for, at least my world. I surrendered…I simply acknowledged that the difference I could make was right in front of me, that what I was doing was very helpful to my husband’s medical practice (which we now call “our practice”, as in, the family business), and agreed to give it five years-yes, five years-to genuinely engage. That was when the shift occurred. The more I began to be present with the day-to-day routine at the office, the more I felt joy. The more I genuinely connected with my co-workers and patients, the more authentic I became. I began to experience gratitude for the positivity I brought to the work and for the kindness that came into my life because of it.

A couple of weeks later, there I was, baking pumpkin-coconut bread and these realizations were the epiphany:
I had gotten away, with intention, from being a Cardiovascular, hospital-based nurse educator to start my coaching practice. As I served others in a coaching capacity, Gratitude became a central tenet in that work. I too had began a daily gratitude practice, during my morning walk, and woweezowee, gratitude became HUGE in my personal and professional life. I wrote about gratitude, I gave workshops on gratitude and I began to live a life of gratitude. Part of my journey, I now see, was towards gratitude. On the way back I found my heart in nursing. Again.

I am truly filled up by teaching others-in a kind way-so that their learning is gentle. As I have cultivated my own gratitude practice, this has also led me to speak to others in a language that is compassionate and non-judgmental. I feel able now to re-engage in guiding our patients towards their own optimal health-in spite of having diagnosed heart disease.

As an aside, I see daily that many of our patients are living with much stress, some of which is self-induced, and some is related to external circumstances. Nonetheless, their stress creates chaotic brain chemistry that ultimately interferes with a patient’s ability to make healthful choices. In spite of their best intentions, some patients fall back to the very behavior(s) that contributed to their heart disease in the first place. I can see now that by connecting one-on-one with patients and/or offering small, group classes to our patients, I can make a positive difference. This realization nourishes me…

Another opportunity for kindness and compassion has been around finances in the office. Many of our patients are un-insured, and many have an outstanding balance for services rendered. Some call to schedule an appointment for the first time, and ask about cash-pay prices. My husband and I have not hesitated to make excellent health care available. He leaves this dialoguing with the patients up to me – there are some times when I write off the balance altogether, and many times when I make an agreement with a patient to make small monthly payments; it feels so right, and touches the patients’ hearts, both metaphorically and physically. When I am understanding of others, when I am able to share kindly, when the heart of another is touched, I believe our world becomes a more joyful place.

And finally, this last awareness, which is a bit awkward to write about: I love to shine. I enjoy being a manager. I have the skills to lead and motivate co-workers in a pleasant and effective manner. Being an entrepreneur requires constant tending to, creativity, and diligence, that I-much to my surprise-didn’t seem to have the energy for. Holy Cow. That’s a big piece of understanding. Yet, in my newly-embraced work environment, I can shine. For which I am grateful.

If you have had the fortitude to read this lengthy story, then I thank you with my heart, for now you understand more about my journey. I am at the crossroads where I am offering a soft closure of HeartMatters; I will not be gone, not by any means, but I am going to have a lesser presence for the next little while. For however long that turns out to be. I’ll gladly be available for email and phone call queries; I will, with enough notice, be available to provide a workshop or to write an article.

I am following my heart and my head, a rich combination of intuition and reality.

Blessings to you. May each of your days be filled with joy, time outdoors in nature, nourishing food, and authentic love.

This is the zest to which I was referring, in one of my favorite videos: 1.1.11

A Spring Cooking Class

A yummy welcome to Spring! Join Wendy and me at In The Kitchen for an engaging, satisfying, and informative evening. You’ll have fun assisting in the meal preparation, while learning how to eat well without spending hours in your own kitchen! Register by phone at (530) 478-0669, or online at either info@wendyvanwagner.com, or  at www.wendyvanwagner.com (from the classes page, scroll down to 3.23.12). I am looking forward to seeing you there!

An Illuminated Path, A Shooting Star

My morning walk is my time for Gratitude expression; each morning when I walk with Grace the dog, I speak out loud of that for which I am grateful. Some mornings that may include seemingly small details and other mornings, my gratitude is for huge and powerful blessings. This morning was HUGE.

I’m currently immersed in a mind-bending project involving the integration of a computer system for data collection. Suffice it to say that I have had to dig deep to find mindful moments throughout the day, which has elevated the value of my morning walking gratitude. This morning, I was expressing gratitude for my previous night’s restful slumber, the excellence of my teammates at the office, the warmth of our home, my dog’s wagging tail, the delicious crispness of the early morning air, and the magnificence of the sky in the pre-dawn light. As I came out from the forest, into an open meadow area, I looked up to admire the sky and was gifted with a shooting star! Right away, I opened myself to the whatever beautiful message that was intended for me; I stood in wonder under the big sky, expressing thanks for the simple beauty of that shooting star, just beginning to see that the message may have something to do with movement, dynamics, impermanence, change…and WOW, another shooting star bestowed it’s beauty upon me. Just for me. My heart was so open in that moment, the word Illuminated came to me just then and I got it! I understood with clarity that my path was illuminated, knowing that this project, with all of it’s distractions and chaos, was simply perfect, and that in holding the energy of illumination, of acceptance, of dynamic state of being–that all was and would continue to be just as it is intended. I felt pure joy in my heart, thoroughly touched by this understanding, and energized for the busy day.

May your day too, be blessed with an illuminated path, wherever it may take you.

Yellowstone Guided Imagery

From me to you, a gift of quieting relaxation, shared from my recent experiences in Yellowstone National Park.

Yellowstone guided imagery

In your busy life, I invite you to consider relaxation as medicine. Taking a few moments each day to quiet the mind and the body will beneficially alter brain chemistry as well as physical metabolism. In addition, the spiritual self is nourished…you will come away refreshed, pleasantly balanced, and ready for whatever else comes your way that day!

May you find as much delightful quieting in the practice as I did in the creation.

Pesto! The Flavor of SO Many Possibilities.

Pesto is easy to make, richly flavorful and so versatile!

• 2 bunches of fresh basil (you can even leave the stems on!)
• 5 robust garlic cloves
• ½ – 1 cup of olive oil
• ½ cup of pine nuts
• ¾ cup of fresh parmesan cheese

To Prepare:
• Blend all of these ingredients together, mindful of the amount of oil poured, as well as time spent blending to adjust–to your taste and texture pleasure!

This evening, I made a fab and easy meal:

1. Simmering on the stove, while I was creating the pesto, was a pot of bow tie-shaped pasta. When the pasta was al-dente, I mixed it with the pesto then added fresh mozzarella chunks and sliced cherry tomatoes. It’s cooling in the fridge to be savored later!

This pesto dish is SIMPLE, REFRESHING, and HEALTHFUL! Walnuts can be subbed in for the pine nuts, and I do sometimes throw in some spinach into the blend.

Your other options for the spectacular left-over pesto:

1. You can spread pesto:

• On firm tomato slices to be enjoyed right then and there—
Or, after a layer of fresh mozzarella has been added. This stack of happiness then gets drizzled with a good-quality fig vinaigrette. Magnifique!

• On a crusty baguette that is then covered in a thin layer of either mozzarella or parmesan cheese and placed under the broiler for a moment. Yum!

2. Cut up a bunch ‘o veggies and layer on a baking tray. Drop dollops of pesto around the veggies, and bake for 10 minutes on one side, in a 350-degree oven. Gently turn the veggies, mixing in the pesto a bit, and bake on the other side for 5 – 10 minutes, depending on the amount of crunch you’d like. The more crunch the better, I say!

Think: carrots, cauliflower, garlic cloves, purple onion chunks, broccoli, mushrooms, zuchinni, sweet peppers…pretty much whatever veggies are in the fridge can end up in this divine and SIMPLE roasted veggie side dish.

3. Or use an olive oil, salt and pepper marinade on those same veggies, saving the zippy flavor of the pesto for dipping roasted vegetables into!

4. Any additional left-over pesto can be mixed into scrambled eggs, spread along side cream cheese in a sandwich, or for a real delight, spread the pesto inside of a Medjool date…need I say more…?

Bon Appétit!

Morning Music: EverGlades Birds Greeting the Day

It’s my pleasure to share a brief glimpse of the glorious sounds of morning song in the EverGlades… Happy Friday!  EGlades birdsong

HeartMatters and What Women Over 40 Want to Know…

I enjoyed a blog radio interview with Wendy Hanlan, the founder of What Women Over 40 Want to Know, as we discussed physical and emotional heart health. Have a listen…

The best thing I did when I discovered I had Type 2 Diabetes was to call Robin Mallery. She coached me to craft a plan to turn this condition around, and the encouragement to believe that I can.  Instead of feeling overwhelmed, I am managing well, using Robin’s program of small steps, achievable goals, and positive reinforcement.  She’s not only a fountain of knowledge and experience, but a loving teacher and motivator.  For the first time in years, I don’t feel helpless about eating and weight gain.  Thank you, Robin!

—GC, Austin

Blog Categories