This Holiday season, take the risk and go for the gratitude that scares the shit out of you. Most of us *think* about the things we are grateful for. That's great - but there is a deeper and more fulfilling experience to have if you're willing to take the risk to experience it.
Many people report that when they focus on what they are grateful for, this automatically generates a fear that they will lose those things. This, in turn, causes many of us to avoid gratitude - consciously or unconsciously. We think that if we hold back just a little bit, we can be saved from the future pain of possible loss. But loss is part of life, and living a little less fully doesn't save you from it.
In fact, research shows that gratitude actually helps us cope with crisis. As we cultivate a gratitude practice, a psychological immune system forms that helps to cushion our fall when we encounter adversity. There is scientific evidence that grateful people are more resilient to stress, whether minor everyday hassles or major personal upheavals.
I'll bet that there is something - or many somethings - that if you allow yourself to really FEEL your gratitude for it, you will cry like a little baby. You will shake, you will shiver, you will be brought to your knees. You will be humbled, frightened, elated, ecstatic, startled, in-awe... raptured. This is gratitude from the soul.
This is the kind of gratitude that wakes the Universe up and puts Her at your command. It moves obstacles in your life and opens doors. This soul-shaking experience of gratitude is your 'magic beans' and your pair of 'ruby slippers', and the more you practice it, the easier it is to live from this space allowing more 'magic' to seep into your everyday.
Taking the time to focus on the subtler treasures of life - such as a fresh breeze, a breathtaking view, a stranger's beautiful facial expression, or a blooming plant - takes life to a new level of fulfillment a pleasure. Once you learn to cultivate it - you'll never go back. Life passes us by, and the magic of the present moment often eludes us. As humans, we miss out on opportunities to connect with humanity, savor our lives, and recognize all we are grateful for and appreciate.
Happy Thanksgiving week to each of you, and may you each find a million moments this week to experience awe & gratitude for:
And just for fun, one of my favorite videos about gratitude:
This date, Oct 11th, I call the 'life anniversary' for me and my family. I will never stop celebrating it, and the fact that we are all still here. Last night we spent the evening as many families do, our 19-year old son came over, and we watched Monday Night Football, we ate together, laughed, talked, and shared funny videos and memes on our phones. This simple pleasure, of having a normal, everyday night, is everything. We are all alive.
Eight years ago today my life changed. I was trapped in metal for hours before I could be airlifted to the trauma center... intubated for days in critical care... months of being in a hospital bed... then being in a wheelchair... walking with a cane.... ER visits every other month for over a year, medical complications... internal bleeding,... more surgeries, ... and (for me) still experiencing pain to this day.
I am not the same person I was before this day, eight years ago. Residing inside me now is fierce respect for tragedy and the element of chaos that exists in the universe. This day also gave birth to a strange, and seemingly permanent, palpable connection to the web of life that connects all things. In a spiritual sense, I would say that this near-death experience brought me to my knees - where I still am today, greeting every day with humility and awe (to be alive).
Many people see me daily, and would never know that I am, to this day, physically, mentally, and emotionally, impacted by this trauma. I am immensely grateful for this. I have no physical damage to my face or limbs, I didn't suffer brain damage.. we were all so incredibly lucky. We are all alive.
Here is the thing, guys, ALL people go through traumas of various sorts in their lives, and we might see them every day for years and still not know about it. We might think we know them or understand them - and chances are, we have judgments about who they are or the way they do things. We have no idea that they are still being impacted by trauma(s) that they have experienced. Even after you are recovered, trauma changes you. You've heard it said: be kind, for everyone is fighting a battle that you know nothing about - but really... be kind, for everyone is fighting a battle that you know nothing about.
Furthermore, be oh so soft and gentle with yourself as you navigate this world and heal from your traumas. Humans are soft sensitive creatures, and you deserve all of the compassion and nurturing that you yearn for. Take all the time you need. Even years and years later, if the wound in your soul tears open, respond with love over frustration. Sit in the quiet safety of your nest, share with people who have earned the right to hear your story, and accept all the beautifully broken, repaired, (or partially repaired) parts of yourself. You are a work of art that is currently in progress. You are okay just the way you are.
And for life, my friends, this beautiful, amazing nightmare - be grateful, every damn day. Hug someone you love today. Get in touch with the deep gratitude for being alive. Life is shorter and sweeter than we can grasp.
"I am not interested in enlightenment if it means detachment from the emotional body, the earth plane, the challenges of being human. I am interested in enrealment, because it means that my most spiritual moments are inclusive, arising right in the heart of all that is human: joy and sorrow, shopping list and unity consciousness, fresh mangoes and stale bread. Enrealment is about living in all aspects of reality simultaneously rather than only those realms that feel the most comfortable. We are not just the light, or the mind, or the emptiness, or perpetual positivity. We are the everything. It’s ALL God, even the dust that falls off my awakening heart." - Jeff Brown
Jeff Brown is an author, teacher, enrealment activist, and grounded spiritualist - and I adore his work. Again and again, he captures my thoughts and feelings in eloquent and impactful words. Jeff says, "If you want to live a more spiritual life, live a more human life. Be more truly, fiercely, heartfully human." I couldn't agree more. You can check out Jeff's work here, and sign up for his newsletter here.
I am, through and through, a seeker. I want to know how things work, and why people are the way they are. I want to understand the mysteries of life, love, and fear. I find the investigation of being human endlessly fascinating. Am I am bag of meat infused with electricity, was I fearfully and wonderfully created by a God with specific attributes, or am I consciousness incarnating again and again into human form?
I grew up in the Christian church, and as a young girl I won awards for memorizing bible verses at AWANAs. As a pre-teen, you could find me at Church 4 days or more a week - Sunday sermon, Tuesday bible study, Wednesday youth group, and Thursday morning prayer breakfast. I was fully invested. Then things started to go really sideways in my life (you can read some of my personal story here). I questioned why God would allow me, a devoted child of god, to experience such an unfair allotment of hardship. Oh, yeah, I knew all the answers... but they didn't jive with my soul. The thing is that truth holds a certain weight. You can feel truth. When I started to dig deeper into the explanations that Christianity provided for the way things were, they just didn't add up. I had to admit that as a child, the pretty stories were... pretty stories, but the deeper truths that my soul was seeking couldn't be answered by Christianity. In fact, I found the explanations it offered offensive.
In my 20's I became deeply involved in the spiritual community. I sat with gurus and spiritual leaders and participated in rituals and processes. A 90-day intensive process, which included chanting the same mantra every day for 90 days, led to me meeting (with no logical explanation) the goddess Kali in an Ashram in India. I learned how to meditate and access my theta brain waves, alone and in groups. I saw my past lives, and experienced (completely unexplainable) shared memories of past lives with another person. Overall, I learned a great deal from this lifestyle, but to my surprise, I also found one of the largest collections of inauthentic, ego-driven assholes that I've ever - to this date- experienced in one niche of life. For some reason the allure of being 'spiritual' attracts a certain type of person... and, the plain truth is, I don't like or respect that type of person. Of course, I also met lovely, humble, authentic individuals in this community, but they were few and far between.
Finally, in my 30's I had created an authentic spirituality that fit whoever this "me" is that I am in this lifetime. Hinduism teaches that there are two experiences of God - nirguna or saguna, and that based on your personality, you are either attracted to one or the other of these experiences. Nirguna is a god without form or without qualities, the eternal all-pervading and omnipresent divine consciousness. Saguna means with form or with qualities. So for those of us in the Western world, an example of this would be believing in Jesus, and feeling comforted and inspired knowing (or pretending to know) what he looked like, what he said, what he felt. He is a god with qualities. Saguna.
My personality lends itself to the nirguna experience. When I think of the vastness of everything that is, the extreme wonder of it - I feel that expansion in my heart. Any words or explanations I try to put to that experience, limits it. When I say, "This is the answer", I feel my soul constricting and getting smaller. I enjoy living into the questions, the wonder, the 'stale bread and the fresh mangos' - ALL of it. Being fully myself, being the most authentic and true version of myself, the most human that I can be - this (I believe) reveals the most god that I can be. To use Jeff's word: enrealment.
All of these being said, if you have a different experience, if you believe in a god with attributes, Jesus or Kali, - I don't think you're wrong. I don't think that I'm right. I don't know. I would, however, enjoy exploring the questions of life with you and learn more about where your soul has led you to find the answers. That I find endlessly interesting. Not the rules of a book, but YOU. I can't think of anything I love more than learning what resonates for another person's soul.
My Transition to Slow Living
My husband and I were a couple of simple-living individuals when we were young. Our VW Van, a cottage on the beach, and hours filled with soul-nourishing activities. Long runs together and my husband reading novels to me as we snugged by the fire were staples of our daily life. We clammed, we fished, we forged mushrooms, and we grew vegetables. In the summers we climbed mountains, in the winters I wrote. Simplicity ruled. Health wasn't a struggle to achieve, because every aspect of our life supported our health. Friendships weren't challenging to maintain because there was plenty of time to nourish them. We never even worried about how much sleep we were getting, because we rested when we were tired.
About a year ago I suddenly looked around and realized that our life looked much different than it once had. While our life was still amazing, it had taken on a quality of "busy" that didn't feel good. I saw clearly that the speed at which we were living wasn't serving us. We felt like we were chasing our health, because we never had time for exercise or eating right. Our community had become sparse because we were both exhausted after working 60 hours a week. We stressed out about getting enough sleep because we were always tired.
I began to look deeper and notice other ways in which our life had somehow become out of alignment. We didn't eat locally grown food, we no longer composted, instead of taking the time to fix something, we just threw it away and bought something new. Even though our family had fairly strict house rules on electronics, we still were spending more time on our phones and laptops than we wanted to. Our time was filled primarily with work, and less time with our family and friends. We no longer played everyday, and fun seemed to have been reserved for vacations and long weekends.
For the majority of my life I have taken pride in living by my own rules, but as I took a deeper look, I realized that I had become a slave to cultural norms of what constituted a "good life". I could see how the circumstances of life had slowly moved us into the "mainstream" way of living. This awareness awoke my 14-year old hippie, dreadlocked & barefoot self. I wasn't having it. It was time to get back on track.
As I began to reach out to others to talk about my experience, I realized that I was not alone. There were a ton of people that were awakened by the global pandemic. While there were tremendous tragedies and hardships endured (many that we are still unpacking 2+ years later as mental health data continues to show alarming statistics of people struggling mentally, emotionally and spiritually), there were also gifts that came from this time. In fact, I am wondering if the mental health data is actually a sign of increased health and wellness to come. For when we are healing, we must go through the darkness to get to the light. For many of us, the pandemic was a pause long enough for us to wake up - and this awakening is being seen and felt throughout the world right now. Rather than falling back under the spell of consumerism, disconnection, and the great illusion of the hustle, I hope we (both individually and collectively) more fully embrace the discomfort of change long enough to attain the 'better' on the other side.
For my husband and me, we're all in. We have a history of leaping and having faith that the net will appear. It's scary, certainly, but we know how to sit with fear without moving to hide it, fade it or fix it. We started shifting the pieces of our lives a little over a year ago, juggling jobs and wellness, kids and responsibilities, and moving forward with intention and trust. These next few months, we are inviting bigger change around the pieces of our lives. The momentum has caught... and the change is imminent. We're not sure how it's going to work out, but we know - without a doubt - that if we keep our intention strong and our hearts open, there is something better than we could have ever envisioned on the other side.
The part that has been most interesting to me, throughout these past several months, is my own inner journey. Even parts of simple, slow, connected living that I year for are challenging to step into because over the past years, as my life has sped up, I've also attached to ideas and identities that are hard to let go of. Busyness as a badge of honor, self-worth tied to production, always being rushed - these have become deeply ingrained in me over the years, and now I must take time and care to unweave them. This process doesn't happen overnight, I assure you. As humans, I feel that all of us expect something to change immediately after we think it. It just doesn't work that way. Thinking isn't knowing. Knowing takes times (you can read my theory on the 3 levels of knowing here).
I'll be sharing more of my inner process and our outer process in this blog and in my newsletter (you can sign up here), and I'd love for you to join me. For now, my heart wants to tell your heart: Rest. Trust the change that is happening right now, and lean into it. Find the new version of yourself that wants to emerge by shedding away the old skin that has become stiff and suffocating.
In 2010 Mindy Amita Aisling graduated from iPEC, one of the most highly acclaimed coaching schools in the world, far exceeding the requirements set froth by the International Coaching Federation. Immediately after graduation, Mindy launched her life coaching business, serving clients all over the world, and was highly successful both locally and internationally.
In her second year of coaching, she was featured in the New York Times as a successful coach under 40. Mindy wrote grants for community members to attend workshops free of charge, and she developed curriculum for educational courses on life and How To Be Human. She was a keynote speaker for a variety of groups, offered a series of classes and workshops, hosted community enrichment & advocacy events, and coached individuals and businesses both locally and remotely.
In addition to her education as a coach, Mindy is also a certified mediator and has served as a mediator privately, and for the Deschutes County Courthouse.
Currently, Mindy focuses almost exclusively on one-on-one coaching work with individuals and businesses who are seeking to have a more authentic and aligned life and/or business. Mindy is also in the process of revising her curriculum from in-person courses to online DIY Coaching Courses for fellow autodidacts.
What unique gifts do you bring to your coach/client relationships?
I am highly empathetic. Yup, I'm one of those people that is brought to tears by life almost every single day. Some days they are sad tears, but some days they are tears of awe and wonder, or joy and gratitude. I am seriously moved by life and the experience of being human. This natural empathy allows me to connect to my client's experience of life in a very real way and allows them to feel tremendously seen and heard.
I am direct. I say what I mean and I mean what I say. I don't beat around the bush, or sugarcoat things. Often times when people say they are direct they are actually using this as an excuse to be mean, or "brutally honest" - nope, that is not what I'm talking about. When I say that I am direct, I'm referring to this natural inclination - or need even, to be completely transparent and authentic. I talk about the things that all humans experience but most humans shrink away from giving voice to, like shame, desire, fear, insecurity, resentment, yearning, hope, and love.
I am curious. My wild curiosity is one of the things that I love most about myself, and my clients have reported that the space of curiosity that I bring into our sessions has been valuable in our coach/client relationship. I find the world, the experience of being human, and each individual's unique story, gifts, challenges, and traumas... all of this is endlessly fascinating. I have no space for judgment in my life or my work because judgment cancels curiosity. Judgment and curiosity can not exist at the same time, and given the choice between feeling judgment or curiosity - I'll choose curiosity every single time.
What is your coaching style?
My philosophy is that every single person already has all of the answers for themselves and their life, they only need to remove the obstacles that are in the way of accessing their inner wisdom and clarity. Many times when clients come to me, they have a belief system that they are somehow not whole, that they have to be someone or something different in order to succeed - that they are not enough. Nothing could be further from the truth. When I am coaching, I am holding the space for my clients to realize their wholeness, and to come home to who they really are. My clients gain the ability to stand so firmly rooted in who they are, that even life's biggest challenges don't shake their roots.
What are some of the goals that you've helped your clients reach?
Wow, over the past 12 years of coaching, I've also grown as a coach and a human, and I've tried on different niches of coaching to see where my greatest strengths are. When I first started coaching, I was also an NFPT fitness trainer, so I focused primarily on health, wellness, balance & self-care. Then I went back to school for more training, became certified as a mediator, and focused on communication, emotional intelligence, conflict resolution, and relationship. Given my rich past in entrepreneurship, I've worked with a plethora of clients on opening businesses or changing careers. For a short time, I branded myself as the 'clarity coach' and helped people who were stuck in making a decision for their life. Now, I would say that my primary focus is authenticity - and that path includes many of the previous areas of my expertise. I would say the top 5 goals that I've helped my clients achieve over the years are:
What is the process you use to help your clients reach their goals?
Each client is a bit different, so the process isn't always this linear, but in an effort to over-simplify the answer, so that it's easy to communicate, I'd list the steps as something like this:
I also have coaching package designed with a specific goal in mind, and the process for these is slightly different.
Stop Feeling Guilty for Resting
Like many of us, I started working when I was pretty young (14), and for over a decade I held some outdated belief systems that didn't serve me or work to create the life that I wanted.
Here are some of the (mostly subconscious) rules that I had for myself:
1. If you are not making a lot of money you are not allowed to rest or have fun.
2. If you don’t work 40+ hours a week you are not allowed to rest or have fun.
3. If you are starting to feel burnt out, work harder because you don’t want that weakness to permeate your being and ruin your life.
4. You are allowed to take vacation, but only if you work so hard before you go that the entire vacation you are just recovering from the double-time work you did the previous week in order to go on vacation.
When I would run into someone who was ‘taking time for themselves’ and living a balanced life, and I would judge them fiercely. At work, I would pride myself in never taking my breaks, and even sometimes working off the clock to finish the job. It was clear to me that I was a ‘better person’ because I could work 8 hours straight without even going to the restroom.
Then, in 2010, as I started to shift my life and I went back to school to become a Life Coach, I realized that these are common belief systems that many of us hold. There is an entire culture of people running on this hamster wheel, racing to prove to themselves and others that they are worthy (worthy even of rest, or of having fun).
It was hard for me to escape this hamster wheel because it comes with its own reward systems. Not only from upper management, (of course they love that you are giving your life for their dream!), but also from our American culture. We live in a culture, for the most part, that does not hold life-balance as a high value. We, as a whole, define people by what they do to make money. It goes even further that than that too. When we hear of someone taking time off, working part-time, or god-forbid going on unemployment while they figure out their next move, we disparage them. We think, “Ugh, they are not working, so they have no value!”.
While I was giving up my life to meet the standards of being a 'good hard-working American', I was praised for my "work ethic" and so I continued to over-work so that I could feed my praise-addiction. Now, I realize my naivety. At the time, I didn't understand work ethic. I thought it meant: to work as hard as you can for as long as you can, until you fall down exhausted with no energy left for yourself, your hobbies, your friends, or your family. I was wrong. Work ethic is about integrity, responsibility, quality, discipline and teamwork. It is about showing up 100% and using all of your skills, gifts and energy to create the best results. You can only really do this if you are living a balance life.
You can only bring your best self to the table if you prioritize what it takes to sustain your best self.
So, I realized I had to make a choice. Was I going to live by my culture’s values, or by my values?
I took a chance, and I chose balance. I chose to rest. I chose to have fun. It was challenging to give myself permission to do these things. It took work to change my thoughts, feelings, and beliefs. At times I had to grit my teeth to make a different choice than I had up to that point. It also didn't happen overnight. Just like I've had to train my physical body at the gym or on the track, I had to train my mental and emotional body to choose new thoughts and actions.
It takes intention and attention to be the leader of our own life.
Fast-forward 10+ years, and I can tell you, it was the greatest choice I ever made. Life is not about working and paying your bills. Life is about enjoying every moment. Life is about feeling like your optimal self as often as possible.
If you are feeling burnt out, then leave your desk immediately. Psychosis is defined as: a severe mental disorder in which thought and emotions are so impaired that contact is lost with external reality. I know a lot of people who work so hard they have lost contact with reality. They have lost their health, their friends, their families, and their dreams. So if you feel guilty about leaving your desk immediately, take a sick day. Take a psychosis day. Give yourself back to you, and then create a life of wonder and awe.
Mindy Amita Aisling