Our Real Work: Jess Ryan, MS

Coaching and consulting. Something's calling. It's your life.

March 5, 2017
by jessryan
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What’s Hidden is Holding You Back: 5 Steps To Safely Uncovering Your Gifts

I’m not sure if you knew this about me, but I’m a sucker for poetry. Not just reading it, but writing it. I’ve had several pieces published and was invited to compete in the 2012 Women of the World Poetry Slam Competition. All under a pen name. Because I didn’t want anyone to know I wrote poetry.

Why?

I have no idea.

Writing poetry is not nearly as alarming as other things I’ve done in my life. But younger me seemed to think this “poetry writing” (yes, please feel free to use air quotations when you read this even if it doesn’t make sense, I really was writing poetry) was pretty earth shattering and didn’t quite fall inline with how I wanted others to perceive me.

Okay, I guess if I dig a little deeper––I didn’t want to be rejected.

Even deeper––the poetry was born out of my years of depression, trying to make sense of spiritual awakenings (think Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Jesus in the desert. Yeah, it’s a hard one to wrap your brain around), and periods of seemingly endless despair and questioning the point of life.

So when I truly examine the deeper reason for why I used a pen name and wrote like a hermit I can totally see why I didn’t want people to know about my poetry habit. It wasn’t the “poetry writing”, it was the real me I was afraid they’d see and reject.

Well, that sucked. Pretending not to be myself. All the time. Literally, expressing a more authentic version of myself under a fake name while maintaining all my relationships in the same way I always had. (Turns out I had very little faith in others at the time. Thank goodness for neuroplasticity.)

The metaphors are ripe here, people. Maybe poetry and pen names are not your gig, but where and what are you hiding?

My questions to you: (Seriously, grab your journal and carve out 10 minutes. Getting this out of your person makes it more concrete and will shift things in your system.)

1. What is one thing you’re not currently sharing about yourself with your friends, family, co-workers, etc.?

Maybe it’s an inspiration or an idea? Maybe it’s something from your past that you think others will judge? Maybe it’s your habits with money? Maybe it’s that nagging voice that reminds you that you always wanted to be a dancer?

2. What’s the story you’re telling yourself about why you can’t share this?

Good old Brene Brown helped me with this one in Rising Strong. Our minds can spin a pretty compelling story THAT. WE. BUY. like it’s God’s honest truth. Granted that story might have served us or protected us at one point in our lives, but my hunch is you are much more resourced and this story isn’t serving you anymore. Before we can change the story we need to know the story we’re telling.

Any of these sound familiar? They won’t love me anymore. People in my ___________ (insert family, social group, profession, etc.) don’t do this. They will make fun of me. If I say/do that, it will ruin my career. I’ll be embarrassed.  Oh, the list goes on. What’s your story?

3. Does this require outside support?

Regardless of whether or not you just realized you need to be a dancer at 65 or those things that happened in your twenties are still shaping your relationships, it’s always wise to call in support and reinforcements. If you’ve been carrying these ideas and thoughts by yourself for this long, and they’re still buried in there, you aren’t going to change it alone. Life coaches are great for getting from point A to point B. Therapists are great for helping you heal the past. There are a whole host of service providers in this world who are sharing their gifts so that you can share yours. Please, do yourself a favor and receive the support you need.

4. What’s one baby step you can take TODAY to reveal a little bit more of the thing you listed in the first step?

Maybe it’s as small as putting your idea on a post-it note so you can make it real, get it out of your head, and out in the world. Maybe it’s having a conversation or making an appointment. Maybe it’s whispering it out loud. Maybe it’s just turning on the radio and dancing in your living room. Whatever it is––do it.

5. Remember. You are loveable. No matter what. I promise.

Coming out from behind the curtain and changing up the status quo is scary. Our inner voices will rally against the unknown. Just remember, I know that you are bigger than what others can see on the surface and the stuff you think others can’t see or that you’ve been hiding for years––there are people that can see that, and they still love you. And guess what, whether or not they do, you are still loveable and a gift on this planet.

What are you and the great souls of this world missing out on by keeping yourself hidden?

In the comments below please let us know about a time when you pulled back the curtain, let others see you, and what resulted. We’d love to continue to support you on your journey:

PS: My pen name was Cecilia Leigh. 😉

February 19, 2017
by jessryan
0 comments

It’s Hard to Say Good-bye

It’s Hard to Say Good-bye

By Stephanie Long

(This is a two-part guest post from my other business’ blog,  dharma. The Institute for Awakened Living. The first part is a letter written by Stephanie Long. The second part is a written response from Emily Brown and myself. )

Change is in the air for us at dharma. It’s actually in the air for all of us, all the time. It is – as they say – the only guarantee in life other than like death and taxes.

This particular change centers around my decision to leave the business trio that Jess and Emily and I created about one year ago, but that has really been in development over the past 6 years. I’m being called in a new direction – one that asks me to step back from this endeavor and into my own big D Dharma.

This particular change is really REALLY hard. I LOVE these women. They are not like family; no, they are the most formative and influential members of my intentionally created spiritual family. When I am with them, I’m home. Our years developing and teaching our yoga teacher training program together, the space we have held for one another through difficult times, the growth we have encouraged in each other… Though I will try to find words to express the gratitude I hold for these people – my dear teachers, colleagues, and most of all best friends – I’m afraid my efforts will ultimately fail to capture it in its entirety. I’ve been lucky on a ridiculous, absurd level with this one. Two women who know me. They know me! They sometimes seem to know me better than I know me, which then helps me to know me better. We have created a relationship in which we are so dedicated to the evolution of one another that we do not let each other off the hook when we sense that there is more to learn. It is courageous love. I’m so grateful their support even through this decision that affects the two of them directly.

Over the last summer, we began to pull into our conversations a lot of elements of the Hero’s Journey – the common story arc that Joseph Campbell identifiers in all great myths and stories of transformation and spiritual growth. A hallmark of this journey is leaving home and going it alone. One must – at some point – head into the deep, dark woods, following the path that has not been forged by another. It is frightening. There is resistance. And yet, I know this is my journey at this time. I am called to go.

And so, I ask the parts of me who carry my fear, uncertainty, confusion, FOMO, deep love and gratitude for Emily and Jess and for all the students of present and past YTTs, and all the rest to pack up and come along. We are going on a journey.

I wish you all a blessed journey of your own.

So much love and deep gratitude,

Steph


Saying goodbye is hard. It’s confusing and heart wrenching when we are asked to let go of something that has been such a gift, a joy, and a pillar in life. Creating and running the yoga teacher training with Steph, for the last six years, has been just that. Our time together is so much more than just a job. Our work and this yoga teacher training have impacted and shaped the way we live our lives. It has influenced our perspective on community and relationship––how to build it, grow it, maintain and nurture it, and how to stay in it even when it’s uncomfortable and exposing. Then, sometimes, when the time it right, we are asked to let each other fly. To step back, release the hands to which you have been holding together for years, and watch something new be born. The experience it both thrilling and painful.

Steph has been a great gift to our teaching trio. She has brought waves of creativity and inspiration, confidence, and also much needed humor and lightheartedness to our trio. To say our love runs deep would be a gross understatement, but there are many things in life that can’t be expressed in words. It might seem strange from the outside––Steph’s not moving away, there is no big scandal or misunderstandings between us. We will all still hang out and text almost daily. But, something bigger has been whispering to Steph.

Our yoga teacher training focuses on Dharma––finding your soul’s path, living life awake. When any of us begin our journey of awakening, we have found, Dharma usually has something up its sleeve different than what we have planned! Staying comfortable and cozy or living from habit isn’t really Dharma’s thing. And so, just as we teach and encourage others to live from a place of courage and willingness to engage in this journey of life, we ourselves must respond to the call, even though we wonder why and sometimes try to reason (or argue) with this great inner force.

Dharma has called Steph down another path and it is with hearts exploding in gratitude that we bow our heads, kiss her cheek, and wish her all the best on her next wild ride. We love you beyond expression.

And, our yoga teacher training goes on. Jess and Emily will take over the role of primary teachers and we will offer ONE MORE YEAR of the dharma. Integrative Yoga Teacher Training in its original eight-month format based out of Blossom Yoga Studio in Laramie.  Steph will be around to teach some modules and to help us all ease into this transition.

The final year of our signature program begins in August and registration is now open! Buyers beware: big D Dharma will take you on the greatest journey that is your life and down paths that are almost always unexpected!

With ALL our LOVE,

Jess & Emily

December 18, 2016
by jessryan
0 comments

What Happens If You Sit in the Dark

It’s time to slow down. To get still. To get quiet.

This time of year society, our communities, our families often ask us to do more. Shopping, holiday parties, end of the year wrap up. There is a place for all that, but I suggest we need space for, well, space. We need to listen to that internal urge to slow down.

What would happen if you stopped for just a minute to sink into your physical body, to feel your response to your current situation or of what’s being asked of you?

What if, instead of doing more, you did less?

What do you feel when I ask that question? Not how, but what do you feel? Our bodies have so much to tell us, but we need to learn to listen. So think about doing less. Is there an easing of the shoulders, a loosening of the jaw, a sinking in to your seat? Or does your breath get shallow, your foot twitchy, your face warm? If doing less makes you feel anxious or tense, explore that for a minute. Wonder about why.

The solstice gives us a sacred, healing space. I invite you to welcome that healing into your life. I encourage you to make space to get still and quiet. Shut off your shiny devices for a little while. Get out into nature. Set aside time for yourself and this practice.

In a safe space, sit or stand comfortably. Feel your feet or your sitting bones on the ground. Take a deep breath through the nose, down to the belly and up through the chest. Let it out through the mouth with a big sigh. (Do it. I’m not kidding.) Repeat a few times, and then settle into just noticing your breath. In the quiet space you create, you can:

Reflect
Think back on the year: What was wonderful? What was hard? What changes did you create or face? What are you still beating yourself up about? As part of your reflection, continue to make space for celebration, for grieving, and for forgiveness. Yikes, that’s a lot of big stuff. The solstice is a time to open to those big feelings and changes.

  • If you accomplished something you are proud of, if you made a change that you’re excited about, if you made a hard decision, honor that. Celebrating doesn’t have to mean a party and popping champagne bottles. Choose your own ritual to honor what you have done.
  • Allow space to grieve. Remember loved ones who have died. Allow yourself to feel what is really happening when you think of them, even if it’s sad or angry or complicated. Give yourself permission to grieve things that didn’t work out—the dream that ended, the missed opportunity. Feel it. Let it pass.
  • Take time for forgiveness. Extend your forgiveness to other people and open to self-forgiveness. Sit in this space and show yourself compassion instead of self-shaming.

Practice Gratitude

Practicing gratitude is a way of looking at the world. Gratitude is a mindset that we can all cultivate. Finding gratitude, living gratitude doesn’t mean glossing over what’s hard, but it is finding the good. I tore a tendon in my ankle (what the what?!). For Christmas, I get a sexy leg brace to wear for the next 4 months in an attempt to avoid surgery. On the one hand, it’s hard to get around, and I’m worried about surgery. But I’m actually really grateful, because I should be able to snowshoe and walk at the park once I get my brace. And I hear the Universe loud and clear. I need to slow down.

If you don’t have a gratitude practice, start by noticing what you have, the beauty in the world, small acts of kindness. Say “Thank you.” Write a note. Pay it forward. Little acts—a word, a smile, a hug—spread a lot of light. If you practice gratitude daily, open to gratitude for the year, for this space you’ve created, for what is to come.

Look Forward

Reflecting and looking forward sit hand in hand, as light and darkness do. As you reflect on what has been, it is natural to look ahead to what will or could be. What will you do with intention in the coming year? What isn’t working that you want to change? What transformation are you feeling your energy flowing toward? Sit with these questions. Be willing to live these questions.

Take a deep breath and let yourself sink into this space of here and now. Let yourself sit with the darkness, knowing the sun will shine again – and that the darkness has something to offer too.


Join me for Winter SOULstice, a world-wide healing meditation event Wed, December, 21, 7pm MT/9pmET

December 4, 2016
by jessryan
0 comments

The Year’s Best Gift Probably Isn’t on Your List

The holiday season is nutso. It seems to get bigger and bigger, more and more. Heaven forbid you walk into a store and not feel assaulted.

So how do we slow it down?

How do we deal with personal and/or family drama?

How do we deal with hurtful memories and missing people and loneliness when our lives aren’t the cheer, cheer, joy, joy the season demands?

How do we move away from overspending, drinking too much, buying too much . . .? I don’t want to sound like a scrooge, but all that excess tends to make people feel like crap.

When life gets the busiest and you find yourself hurting inside, instead of tuning out (another glass of holiday grog, another bag of chocolates, not the answer), you need to tune in and feel what isn’t feeling good. And what could.

This time of year can test your boundaries. So it’s time to revisit them, refresh them, revitalize your boundaries. And it’s time to take care of yourself.

I know it gets dark early, and for some of us it’s awfully cold, but step outside. Feel the sunshine on your face. Breathe the fresh air. If you can do this someplace with trees around you or open water or rolling plains instead of asphalt under your feet, even better. But if the best you can do is step out of your office for 5 minutes during lunch, do that. Or stand still for a minute before you step back into your warm home. Look up at the sky and the darkness.

Stand still. Breathe it in. Breathe deep. Practice whole body breathing to reset your nervous system. (Honestly, taking slow deep breaths for 10 minutes impacts nervous system for 24 hours.)  Make time to do this every day. Every day. More than once even.

Say no to something you dread doing or are only doing to keep the peace. Say yes to something that brings you joy or contentment.

Go back to your yoga practice. Go to a class. Unroll your mat at home. Practice mountain pose standing in line doing your holiday shopping. (Crazy? Maybe, but it beats getting irritated and ramming your cart into the person in front of you. That actually happened to a family member.) Start your day with meditation. Yes, even though you are too busy. Because you are too busy.

When life amps up the crazy and you start to pass yourself over just to get through, it’s time to respond with self-nurturing and healthy boundaries. You can do this, my friend.

And if you need a little help, I’m offering online energy healing sessions this season and my self-paced online boundaries class.

Online healing sessions are perfect for you! (I’ve found they usually don’t make a great gift for somebody else, but you, you, deserve to treat yourself.) I’ve opened up 5 sessions this month. Click HERE to see what’s available and read more about how energy work can help.

The Real You 101: Healthy Boundaries in a Demanding World makes a great gift for you or a loved one. Even better, take it together and get some common language as you both improve boundaries!

In the comments, I’d love to hear what you’ve done to support yourself in past holidays and what you have in place this season!

November 20, 2016
by jessryan
0 comments

“And now the holidays?!”, and other things you don’t want to say outloud

[Read to end. There’s a free yoga class recording you can access now.]

Family gathered around the heavily laden table. Warm lighting. Chestnuts roasting on an open fire . . . It’s warm and nostalgic and lovely. It’s what we’re told the holidays are supposed to be like. But it’s not everyone’s experience of the holidays.

Does any of these sound familiar?

  • Your family gets into a huge fight when you are together for the holidays, so you dread getting together.
  • You don’t have family to be with, and you’re lonely. (Or you’re tired of everyone thinking you must be lonely when you love the day of solitude you’ve created for yourself.)
  • Somebody gets drunk.
  • You are shamed for not being married yet, having a baby, getting a promotion, being who others want you to be.
  • Somebody has died and you miss their presence during the holidays.
  • You are sad and the pressure to be happy and grateful makes you tired and resentful.
  • You look at what you did or didn’t do during the past year and wonder if it is enough.

Holidays are incredibly tricky. They are full of expectations from society, our families, ourselves. Even in the lead up, the memory and felt-sense of past holidays can make life hard. Are you feeling it already?

I have a lot of former clients that start calling me this time of year. They can’t name it or recognize that it’s linked with their past or this time of year, but they know they feel off and need support.  I start by asking them what made them call.

For you, where do you feel the memories of your past holidays showing up in your body or actions? Is it a lump in your throat? A tightness in your shoulders or chest? A heaviness in your belly? Take a minute to get back into your body. Find where you are holding the tension, the sadness, the anger, the anxiety, the shame, the confusion . . . you don’t even have to name it, just feel it.

Breathe into that spot. Can it loosen? Lighten?

This is a good time to come back to your physical boundaries. Grounding yourself and coming back to your body helps get you out of the mind reels we tend to get caught up in. If past holidays are causing distress, come back to your body. Go for a walk in nature, go to a yoga class, or get a massage.

Going into the body doesn’t mean ignoring our emotions. How are you feeling right now? What can you do about it? (Hint: eating four chocolate bars (I can’t speak from experience), hitting the booze, or binge watching Hallmark Christmas movies doesn’t cut it.) Start by just acknowledging your feelings. Write them out:

  • I hate that . . .
  • I’m angry because . . .
  • I miss . . .
  • I’m sad because . . .
  • I love . . .
  • I wish . . .
  • I want . . .

How can you release anger or hatred? How can you express your sadness? How can you enhance the things that you love or make you feel happy and loved? Can you do anything about your wishes and wants? Can you sit with and make space for what you feel—even if it’s not what you are “supposed” to feel right now?

A lot of emotions are tied up with family. Those present, those who have died. They bring us into family drama and relational boundaries. Working on relational boundaries can help you navigate challenging family situations without getting pushed around or sucked in or going into attack mode. You want to stop the drama. It doesn’t mean you need to like everybody or that you become the poster family for holiday loving, but you don’t have to get consumed by it.

I’m struggling with the impending holidays right now. I’m navigating loss triggers, memories of past holidays, the felt sense of it all. And I thought you might be too. To help you through:

Please try this free yoga class to help ground and center you. You can use it now and practice it throughout the holiday season (and the year).

And if getting your boundaries holiday-ready sounds like it could change how you experience this time of year, my online boundaries course might be just what you need.  As a holiday gift please use code: HOLIDAY through the end of the year to save $50.

November 6, 2016
by jessryan
0 comments

Five Minutes Could Change Everything

A lot can happen in five minutes: a phone call, a text, signing a petition, opening a door for someone, a new life enters the world, someone walks out a door, a hug.  The list is endless. Yet, how often do you click into your rut and the daily grind and forget that you can impact a life (including your own) in less than five minutes.

I have a friend from college that sends out an email every time one of our suitemates has a birthday. A quick, group email to say hello and your life matters, have a great day. She’s been doing this for over 15 years! She uses her precious time and life force to recognize each one of us and our importance in the world…and it probably takes less than five minutes. But, it changes our day and has been impacting our lives for years.

Earlier this week, I was bogged down with to-do’s and annoyed with the amount of emails I was receiving about community and state issues and deadlines for voting and signing petitions. I rapidly checked boxes to mass-delete all of them and then I paused, took a breath, and set a timer. These emails contained issues that impact my community, the land, my family, and my friends.

I know we’re all busy and trying to get through each day. But if we mass-delete the things that cause us to think and question and problem-solve, that take up five minutes of our time, than we’ve just abdicated a little more of our power and our voice to the masses…because “I have too many things to do today”. And that, my friends, is how we let our spirits, relationships, communities, and sense of belonging slowly die, death by a thousand cuts, one ignored issue after another.

I set a five-minute timer and created a boundary/limit AND time to respond to some of those emails. I thought about pros and cons, what matters to me and generations to come, and how my small acts matter.  Yours do, too.

This week, take five minutes to reach out, send a text or email to say thanks to someone, sign a petition, go vote on your local issues, buy a stranger a coffee, whatever suites your fancy.

Then, take five minutes to take care of yourself. Grab a pen and paper and do the coaching activity in the video below to make a little more space for the REAL you.  Seriously, you’ll feel better and the world will be a better place with a more authentic version of you in it!  

In the comments, let us know what you are doing with your five minutes this week.

October 30, 2016
by jessryan
2 Comments

Five Simple Acts That Could Save You This Week

Potentially shocking: not everyone is going to like you, what you believe in, AND you’re probably not going to change others mind if they are vehemently opposed to your opinions. Especially if you troll them on Twitter or unfriend them on FB. Bummer, and we’re grown ups.  We can choose how we approach and treat each other.

Before you tune out and think I’m saying “Why can’t we all just get along,” let me say this. We are complex human beings and we won’t agree all the time. That’s OK. I actually like differences in human beings.

You have your own likes and dislikes. You have your own opinions and goals and dreams. You have your own body and mind and spirit. Thank the sweet heavens that you are you. I am me.

We’re both on this planet right now, and whatever we agree or disagree on, we both matter. We are meant to be here for multitudes of reasons beyond my knowing.

But how do we do this? How do we go through the day staying whole, staying open, staying compassionate when there is so much discord around us? As many of you might suspect, I’m suggesting healthy boundaries can help and, with a few easy action steps, you will make it through this week with your adrenal glands and sanity intact. Stick with me…

Boundaries do four main things:

  1. Protect
  2. Filter
  3. Magnetize
  4. Create Order

Protect

Boundaries are meant to keep things out that are harmful to our physical, mental, emotional, energetic, and spiritual health. In times of divisiveness, we may set boundaries to limit our intake of media. We can choose to not engage with people who speak disrespectfully and to listen to those who speak compassionately of alternate views.

Filter

When boundaries are healthy they filter out life’s experiences, bringing in what is needed and sorting out what doesn’t work. Over a decade ago, I realized law school and me were not a match made in heaven. But even though I ditched the legal studies, my filter allowed me to keep some really useful skills (among them, one skill useful in trying times: how to see both sides).  

Magnetize

When our boundaries are healthy they serve to draw towards us what we need. Things like healing, information, guidance, people, events, jobs, money, healthy relationships . . . The opposite is true too. When we are overtaken by fear and anxiety, that’s what we’ll pull toward us. We do ourselves and the world a lot of good by creating healthy boundaries and opening up to healing, compassion, understanding. All that stuff you wish there were more of in the world? Your boundaries pull that to you and you can offer it back.

Create Order

Yup, sometimes it feels like world is a chaotic mess. We need a container, a safe space for our ideas, beliefs, and actions to blossom. A place to nurture our ideas, truths, expressions when we are vulnerable. So if you are feeling anxious or overwhelmed or uncertain right now, it’s time to check in with your boundaries. You need them more than ever.

I know a lot of people who are struggling in the collective space right now. They are worn out by negativity, tired of devisiveness. They dream of healing and wholeness. You can’t inflict boundaries on others. (Hopefully. That = assault. No good.) But you can tend to and nurture your own boundaries.

Want to do something big for yourself and the collective? Take a few of these practical steps and work on your boundaries.

Take care of the physical.

Action: Do low belly breathing for 10 minutes to get out of the fight or flight response. No joke. 10 minutes of breathing changes your physiology for 24 hours.

Take care of the emotional.

Action: Say no to activities that drain you or pummel your emotions. That may look like getting off Facebook or not talking politics at dinner. Accept difference (hint: you can accept without debating).

Take care of the relational.

Action: Avoid gossip. That can mean gossip about people in your neighborhood or around the world. You don’t have to engage.

Take care of the energetic.

Action: Practice self-awareness to start to tease out where you may be picking up some other energies. Try journaling or meditation. Take a few minutes each day, over the next week to develop greater self-awareness and jot down your observations.

Take care of the spiritual.

Action: We get into some big things here: terrorism, discrimination, messages inflicting a deep sense of shame, unworthiness, or lack of value. Start simply by acknowledging where your spiritual boundaries are worn down.

As you create better boundaries, you stand more firm in your own true essence. The world doesn’t go away, but you have more protection. And at the same time, you shine your light, you share your love, and you help improve the collective energy. Who knew boundaries could do all that?

If you’re ready to take more positive action toward better boundaries, my online, automated Boundaries course is open. You might want to check that out this week.

Sending love out to you and the world. All of it. Good, bad, and everything inbetween. It’s all part of this sweet little thing called life.

I’m ready to get me some of that…BETTER BOUNDARIES and a better world.

October 9, 2016
by jessryan
1 Comment

i am mother.

This week’s post is a guest post written by my colleague and friend Emily Brown. We are co-teaching a local workshop called I Am Mother. Check it out HERE.

 

I often wish that my children could have met me before I became this thing called mother. I wish they could have seen my free spirit and thirst for adventure when it was just me. I wish my old self could spend a day with them, running wild through open spaces, drenched in optimism and best intentions.

But, it turns out, these little beings are exactly what makes me mother. My old self could have never known or understood how deeply being their mother would change who I was.

My motherhood journey began when I was first faced with the realization that I may never become one. I married young and it was always just assumed we would have children. There was never a discussion about our expectations or that we could expect something other. At the time, it hadn’t even occurred to me that some people choose to not become a parent.

Then I got pregnant and miscarried. Then I got pregnant again. And miscarried again. At that point, as I scrolled through the internet reading article after article telling me I COULD still have children and scrolled through article after article telling me I likely WOULDN’T have children, I knew that no matter what happened, I was a mother. I was changed in a way only mothers can be. My grief was deep and my heart touched in a way I had never known before.

It has been six years since the birth of my first child. These days, I mostly feel tired and weighed down by how I have experienced parenthood in a way that is markedly different than my husband. The feeling that motherhood has confused and scrambled my whole identity has been almost impossible for me to express. I lack the time and energy to examine my exhaust and navigate with awareness this thing that I have become, called mother.

And then, one day, I had to quit a bike race half way through and I was crazy pissed off. I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t physically do it. It was a 50 mile race that I had done several times Before (yes, Before with a capital B means, before I was a mother). I have never been an outstanding athlete or accomplished much physically that would warrant even a raised eyebrow. But I finished, and I finished a lot of races. In my mind I was an athlete. Then I wasn’t, and to me, that has been the disorienting journey of motherhood. This time around, I got on my bike with very little preparation and the old mindset of “athlete”. The first 10 miles felt good, inspiring even, but almost every mile after felt more and more deflating. By mile 22, I knew. I knew I couldn’t finish. I knew I was no longer what I was.

At mile 27 my kids, my mom, and my dad were on course ringing cowbells and cheering obnoxiously. I stopped so they could snap a photo and I didn’t start again. My daughter hopped onto my bicycle seat and I walked my bike and myself away with them. I felt embarrassed and deeply disappointed.

I wanted my children to see their mother do something other than cook dinner, pick up the house, and run errands. I wanted them to watch and cheer as I crossed the finish line and for that memory to be etched in their minds when they remembered me. If all of this seems terribly dramatic, you’re right. It is. But, it’s really not about the race anyway. It’s about the evolution of who I am and the grieving and letting go of what I am not.

The atmosphere at the finish line was celebratory. Hundreds of racers were drinking beer and recounting the tales of the many miles biked that day. I ran into acquaintances and old friends whose race times just happened to be phenomenal and I had to try keeping the mood light when asked how my race went. I looked at the crowd of over 600 racers and left angry.

Here is my very gross, and probably inaccurate, summary of the race participants:  Of the females, maybe 1% are mothers and I would guess a good 25-30% of the males were dads. At least, that was the story I was telling myself. The reason this story matters to me is part of why I perceive parenthood being such a different experience for me and my husband.

When my husband became a father it seemed as though it was accompanied with a comma. He was teacher, biker, fixer, thinker, and father. When I became mother it felt more like it was drafted with a period. I am mother. And, in a culture where it seems to take so very little for man to be seen as a good father and so very little for a woman to be seen as a bad mother, I have always met that label with resistance.

Through my lense, it seems that I have had to give up so much and have been  met with judgement from all angles, whether personally or societally. This role comes with so many external pressures that I often feel like I am missing some “mom” gene or hormone that makes me love and cherish every second of raising children. While my husband gets to go to bed each night with a sense of accomplishment and a job well done, I seem to toss and turn while contemplating my failures as a mother.

Like many difficult moments in life, quitting the bike race was pivotal for some small awakening in my soul. It makes sense that “mother” is a lot to live up to. When we look at the mother archetype we see the giver of life. The protector, the nurturer, the life force of the entire universe. The mother represents unconditional love, devotion, and caring. The truth is, we all have aspects of the great mother within us, male and female.

We live in a culture that grossly undervalues and objectifies the feminine. It comes at us everyday in subtle ways with terms like, “you ____ like a girl” or “that’s good for a girl” and in more obvious ways like aggression and sexual violence towards both women and men who exhibit signs of femininity.  It is no wonder that those of us who represent the literal mother feel immense pressure to represent her in all her glory and power.

What if mother was not a role that represents sacrifice or failure? What is “mother” was enough? Biological birth or not, children or not, we are all and have been a mother of some kind. We have all created and fostered something, even if it’s just this very life we are living. We all have the capacity to love deeply and possess the healing power of “kissing the scratched knees” of our family, friends, and even ourselves.

I am no longer an athlete. I am no longer the free, adventurous, and self absorbed girl. I am less able to fly by the seat of pants and plan trips on a whim. I can no longer make decisions based solely on what I want. I can no longer finish 50 mile races. Right now. Or maybe ever.

I wake up, make coffee, juggle schedules, cook dinners, put bandaids on cuts and scratches, clean-up, arrange playdates, and read bedtime stories. For now, in this season, I am mother. And that is enough.

 

September 25, 2016
by jessryan
0 comments

Boundaries for when saying no isn’t an option

Boundaries are about more than saying no (though sometimes practicing saying no to things we don’t really want to do is a good starting point). Boundaries and no get tied together because, well, saying no to outside influences, ideas, and actions is a way of defining our boundaries—super important if our boundaries are too porous or flexible.

But what happens when you can’t say no? I hear you: C’mon, Jess, you can always say no.

Yes, and no. Saying no to going to your sister’s wedding because you’re tired and not feeling well. It’s not going to fly. And if you have a good relationship with your sister, you want to be there . . . you just want to be there and be in bed at the same time. Or maybe she could just move it up a weekend . . . not going to happen.

Having boundaries is hard enough, but we don’t live in a bubble in isolation. We have relationships with family and friends and people at work. We are part of a greater community. How do we navigate the wants and needs of the people in our lives, who have wants and needs of their own, and stay true to ourselves and our personal boundaries?

Sometimes we don’t.

Sometimes our boundaries take a hit. Sometimes we cave. Sometimes we have to choose between equal, competing interests.  Sometimes life just happens.

And then we come back. We come back to the practices that ground us. We come back to our boundaries.

Very practically speaking when you feel like you’ve taken a big hit or are in a boundary, shame tailspin, here’s what you can do:

  • Ground and nourish yourself. Start by getting space. Then do something that brings you back to center: take a bath, get into nature, SET A BOUNDARY and take give yourself some time.

 

  • Reflect with space.
    What boundaries felt like they were being violated? How did I know?
    What were my actions? Emotions? Responses?
    What could I have done differently? (Sometimes there’s nothing you could do differently.)
    This check-in gets you out of reaction mode and puts you back on the path to healthy boundaries. Know what happened and how you dealt with it. But don’t beat yourself up about it.
  • Forgive.
    Practice forgiveness of others who violated your boundaries. Forgive yourself if weren’t able to honor your boundaries (always common for people who are working on building better boundaries) or forgive how you reacted and choices you made.  And sometimes, there is nothing to be forgiven. Funerals, weddings, birthday parties, important business trips sometimes coincide with illness, other life events, and unforeseen incidents. Sometimes it’s more about surrendering and accepting than it is about forgiving.
  • Focus on the positive.
    What did I do really well? Remind yourself not of where you felt you failed, but where you held strong, where you nurtured yourself, listened to your own needs, stood strong.
  • How can I take care of myself now?
    Most of us forget this one: the how I can I mend and nurture myself right now step?  (And this can happen moments, days or WEEKS after boundaries have been tested.)

Sometimes life just gets crazy town. Boundaries can keep us balanced—except when they can’t. That’s when this step is so critical. If you haven’t been taken care of some part (or parts of yourself), stop and do that. It could be taking a day off to rest and reconnect with yourself—or it could be a few deep breaths to center yourself right now.

Boundaries aren’t something you establish and cross off your list. They are something you develop and maintain and tweak. You can have really healthy boundaries and have everything fall to crap, so you turn back to your center, back to you boundaries.

My sister, brother, and I at the wedding. I wasn't going to miss THIS.

My sister, brother, and I at the wedding. I wasn’t going to miss THIS.

You let go of shame and anger and resentment. You let go of overwhelm and set up that safe space for you to interact in your body and mind and spirit. You set up that space where you show up in relationships and connect and hold true to yourself too.

Are you violating your own boundaries? Letting somebody else do it? Feeling like life itself is storming the walls of your boundaries? You can do something about it. Start now.


My online boundaries course will be opening up soon to help you develop healthier boundaries in the real world—like the one where your sister gets married when you’re feeling sick and you want to do all the things but feel the overwhelm because you just can’t.

Sign up HERE and you be among the first to know when the course opens.

September 11, 2016
by jessryan
2 Comments

Hey, empaths and healers, are you a groper?

Do you ever find yourself overloaded with other people’s emotions and feelings? Can you tell when family members are sad or about to burst into anger, even if they don’t say anything? Have you walked past someone in a grocery store and been able to tell that they carried grief, longing, abuse, or joy in their system—without ever exchanging words?

Hello, fellow empaths.

Now another question: when you know these things do you want to fix things or make it better? Maybe you even took a job—like a doctor or yoga teacher or therapist— that puts you in a position to help?

Hello, fellow helpers and healers.

We are well-intentioned folks. We’re hyper aware of other people’s baggage, we want to help heal others. We ask, “What’s wrong?” and “What can I help with?” (Is any of this sounding familiar?) We know there is something awonk with a person before that person actually knows there is something wrong.

Guess what? This can actually annoy the bejeebers out of other people. And it can wreak havoc in our own systems.

We need to stop groping other people. While we’re not physically feeling people up (I hope), we grope their energy. We assess what’s wrong on an energetic level and then try to fix it with our actions, questions, behaviors, and even our own energy. Think about that. Talk about invading personal {energetic} space.

Confession: I used to grope people’s energy. I didn’t know I was doing it. I thought I was being helpful and mitigating uncomfortable situations. Turns out, I was jumping in to rescue and heal people, because of my own discomfort. It wasn’t fair to the other person and I ended up carry a lot of burdens that weren’t mine to carry.

Now, I only check in with people’s energy systems if there are appropriate boundaries around it. Say, working with a client. They’ve given permission, and we’re working together toward healing. But, if I start covertly poking around in people’s systems because I walk into a party and I noticed something off with the person in the corner with the overly bright face? Not good, friend.

I know, we’re just trying to help.

It’s true, but without healthy boundaries we take on other people’s junk AND we take away the chance for our loved ones and friends to be with and heal their OWN stuff. Because, get this, we’re not going to heal anyone else. We’re not supposed to. We might hold a safe container, provide direction and support, but we CAN’T actually heal anyone else other than ourselves. When we try it leads to burnout, illness, depression, co-dependency, unhealthy relationships, and feelings of hopelessness, victimhood, and resentment.

Healthy boundaries teach you how to hear and honor yourself. When you can hear and know yourself from that authentic and aligned place THAT is where you truly hold space for the suffering in the world. You are solid and grounded enough to hold the container of healing space as a partner, parent, community-member, leader, healer. Healthy boundaries are about healing and helping––yourself and the world.

So fellow empaths, healers, and helpers, take some time to turn your attention to yourself. Are you boundaries clear and healthy—not too flimsy, not too rigid? Are they aligned in all areas: physical, relational, emotional, energetic, and spiritual?

I’m guessing the answer is no (myself included somedays––boundaries are a practice.) Most people could use healthier boundaries, and if you have them, it’s good to check in from time to time and see if you need a tune up.

Focus on you (no, it’s not selfish)

One of the first steps to better boundaries is awareness. So try these two exercises to check in with yourself.

  • Identify three ways you can increase your self-awareness. (Journaling, stopping to breath and check in with your body for 5 minutes a day, meditation, yoga.) Schedule a few minutes EVERYDAY, over the next week developing greater self-awareness and jot down your observations.
  • For 24 hours notice how you act, and whether it’s the same or different, around all of your peers, co-workers, strangers, family members, etc. Simply notice. Afterward, reflect on what you discover.

Then take some time to ground yourself. Literally feel your feet on the ground. Close your eyes if that’s comfortable or go into soft focus and feel the physical presence of your body. Notice your breath. Start taking slow deep breaths in and out through nose, feel the belly expand. Practice this for a moment or two throughout the day, perhaps when you feel ungrounded or noticing yourself groping—or at certain times, just to remind yourself to come back to your own body, your own person, your own self.

 

My online, self-paced, boundaries course will be opening up soon to help you develop healthier boundaries. Stop taking on other people’s junk and start helping and healing from a place of groundedness. Sign up here and you’ll be among the first to know when the course opens and you’ll also receive a special discount: 

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