Once upon a time my goal in life was to be safe. I grew up in poverty and chaos, and my definition of success when I was a child planning my adult life was to be able to have a roof over my head, be warm, and to eat everyday. In addition, my hope beyond hope was to find someone to love and learn how to be loved in return.
As I got older, I was able to meet my basic needs, buy a house, own a car, and eat everyday.
However learning to give love and to accept love took me several more years, and a commitment to self discovery and growth. As Rumi says, my heart had to keep breaking until it opened. And after it finally opened, the experience was so juicy and alive, I committed to keep expanding my heart.
I vowed every day not to strive to be successful, to be right, or to be admired... but to simply love. Not to love because the subject of my love deserved it, but to love for myself because I enjoyed the experience of loving. When I love, I get to experience love. When I remain open and vulnerable, I get to receive love from all around me. What a gift that this choice is always available to each of us. The old adage, "Love will set you free" is true - but never in the way I thought.
Now, I am living a life that, to me, is the stuff of my dreams and fantasies. I get to love people everyday (and get paid for it). I get to love my community. I get to love my family. I get to love nature, the pebble, the bird. I get to love my chores and my lessons. Vibrating with love has been (in my opinion) the catalyst for all the incredible gifts that life has bestowed upon me. I am ecstatic, honored and filled with awe and gratitude that I have been voted an "Inspiring Woman" in my community. My sincere thanks not only to everyone who voted, but to everyone who up until this point in my life has helped me become the person I am. I am grateful for those who have always stood by me, for those who have taught me, believed in me, held the space for me... and for all the people who have hurt me, abandoned me, and left me with a 'box of darkness'. I love all of you. Thank you for your contribution to my life.
I know without a doubt that Life has more greatness in store for me than I can possibly imagine. I am delighted to wait, watch and see what additional abundance Life has in store for me. I can't wait to share it with you.
I love you. <3
You can download a copy of the publication here:newmedia1.wescompapers.com/ePaper/bendbulletin/
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The #metoo movement has begun and has brought up emotions for many people. I’ve heard shock from many of my male friends at seeing the extent of sexual harassment, to which my response is shock that they are shocked at how prevalent sexual harassment is. I assumed that more people knew that almost every single woman is affected by sexual harassment culture. Men are too, I know this, but for the purposes of this story, I am going to talk about women because I am a woman and that is the experience I know. Since the #metoo movement began, I’ve heard embarrassment and timidness from my female friends, I’ve heard outrage, confusion, shame, love, righteousness, bashing, and caring. I have had so many thoughts and feelings swirling around inside myself that it has taken me days to sit down and write about it, and here it finally is:
First, I want to say: if you haven’t experienced sexual harassment as a daily part of your existence – you just don’t know. Like many things in life, your mental idea of what an experience would feel like can only shadow the actual experience. You have no idea what it is like to constantly be in a fearful awareness of who and what is around you. If I am walking to my car in the dark, I get on the phone with a friend. If I’m going running on an infrequently used trail, I arrange to check in with someone at my expected return time. I keep my doors locked and look around my car in parking garages before I exit. I consider what I wear to go out running or drinking. I let my husband know when I am seeing male clients in my office if others have already left the building. The other day a leering male plumber came to fix my shower, and as I led him upstairs to show him the problem, I made sure to keep my exits clear (made him walk in front of me) so that I would not be trapped from escaping if I needed to. I look men in the eye as I pass them on the street because I was taught to in my Jr. high school self-defense class that this will reduce my chances of being a victim. Fearful awareness is a part of my daily life. It is part of me. If it is not a part of your existence, you can’t possibly understand. These examples are just about the situations that could possibly be dangerous, we (women) also experience daily the annoying non-fearful parts of sexual harassment culture.
The annoying daily-life experiences include being looked up and down, being catcalled, told to smile, hit on persistently, not having “No” heard (even around non-threatening things like, "Can I order you a drink?"), having to uncomfortably laugh off harassment from our co-workers, bosses, strangers and friends of the family. Having to ‘put-up’ with the subtle forms of harassment or be labeled a “bitch”, a “prude”, be told we are “over-reacting”, “paranoid” or my personal favorite, “You must be on the rag” as if our emotions are invalid because of our monthly cycle. As if the threat is not from men, but from our own blood. Often as a female, the cost of standing up for yourself is being put down.
When I was an early tween and teen, the attention I received from men rapidly increased. I remember how angry it made me when I got an extraordinary amount of attention for my looks. For me, it felt fake and insincere. I wanted people to like me for who I was on the inside, my brilliant mind, my funny nature, my caring ways – but in my life, I was getting attention for something that (in my mind at the time) was so incredibly stupid: my looks. To rebel, I grew dreadlocks. I wore baggy clothes. I became unattractive to fight it and to gain some of myself back. As I got older, I realized that this too was unfair. I enjoyed being a beautiful female. I wanted to celebrate my beauty and my body. I wanted my exterior to reflect my lovely interior. So, I embraced my beauty again and with it picked up all the trappings of our culture's acceptance of sexual harassment culture.
Even as I write this now, I experience shame for admitting all these things. I wonder if I am alone in this experience, even though I’ve heard many other women share the same kind of things. I’m scared that sharing this will make others dislike me and make unpopular. I feel that familiar wall wanting to be built to protect myself from being told I’m overreacting, that it’s my fault, or that I must be the weird one for experiencing life this way. That is how deep this issue permeates our culture. That for me, and educated, strong, bold woman who is trained to work with people around shame still experiences this closing down inside when I discuss this issue. If you are experiencing shame, I highly recommend the work by Brene Brown on shame resilience. It's okay to feel shame, in fact it is part of life. The good news is that you can learn to 'bounce back' from it rather than have it close you down in fear of further pain and disgrace. She has a wonderful book called Daring Greatly that touches on this subject, as well has an entire 12-step curriculum.
Because of the depth of sexual harassment culture, it’s not just assholes that are part of the problem, it is the problem itself. I think many nice guys don’t realize they are doing and saying things that make women feel uncomfortable. I think much of it is innocent and naïve in a way. Throughout the last couple days, my heart has gone out to the many men I imagine are cringing and thinking something like, “Oh crap, I’ve done that… but I had no idea I wasn’t supposed to.”
For example, when we were moving just a few years back and I was at U-Haul getting boxes and asking about moving services and the guy at the counter said to me,
“You’re a cute girl, you could just get a bunch of guys to help you for free. You don’t need to hire movers.”
I’m sure he wasn’t trying to be an ass, in fact, I bet he was trying to be nice and funny - but his comment put me in an uncomfortable situation. I didn’t know how to proceed. If I pursued hiring movers, did that mean I wasn’t cute, or I didn’t know how to get guys to help me, or that I was a prude or an overreacting bitch… did it mean I was doing something wrong? It also was just like being a little girl again – my value was because I was pretty. He didn’t say,
“You are a really nice, funny girl, I bet you have friends that could help.”
I didn’t deserve help because of who I was but because of how I looked. I could tell you a million more stories like this. Of guys being “nice”, “flirting” with me or “complementing" me… where it just didn’t feel good to receive. It’s so subtle sometimes, it’s difficult to talk about and hard to describe.
So, what did I do in this situation, standing at U-haul feeling unsure of myself? I did what 95% of women in these situations do, I giggled femininely and brushed it off, because god-forbid I made him feel uncomfortable.
Other times, I've had men enjoy the power of making me feel uncomfortable. I remember one time I was staying with a family (husband, wife, and child) in Santa Cruz. These were friends of friends who put my boyfriend and me up for the weekend. One morning the husband/father and I went out to pick up coffee and pastries for everyone and bring them back to the house. I drove in his car with him to the bakery. When we got there he suggested that we sit down for a few minutes. He then proceeded to explain to me over coffee that men were biologically bigger than women so that rape was possible and the human race could continue. I was 5'2” and 100#, can you imagine how it felt to get back in the car with him? Can you understand how difficult it would have been to not get back in the car with him?
Once I worked for a business where the owner systematically programmed his female employees to accept his sexual harassment and it became less and less subtle as it wasn’t rejected. It started with a hand on the upper thigh at the job interview, a charming smile and something disarming said like,
“We are all family here, you can just think of me as your crazy uncle.”
Then during training a few weeks later when he asks her to come sit next to him to go over the training manual he quickly slides his hand on the bench, and when she accidentally sits on it, (and he feels up her ass) he laughs and says,
“Oops you sat on my hand!”
As if it was a mistake. As if it was her fault. Days are peppered with comments about how close he is with his team, how no one on the team is a prude, how everyone on the team is so open and loving… all statements to make it less and less popular to stand up for yourself. Then it graduates to comments about her body, appreciation for her breasts.., and then oops –he ‘accidentally’ touches her breast one day. And it continues. You can imagine how this story goes.
As the manager, when I stand up for it and demand it stops – I am fired. Oh, did I mention that this man is a respected member of the community with a reputation for being a philanthropist? This even makes it harder for the young women he hires to trust their own feelings that what is happening is wrong, or to take action to make it stop.
In fact, I think many women are programmed to think they like it, and that makes it all the more confusing. It DOES feel good to get attention, it DOES feel good to be complimented and appreciated. I’ve had men say things to me like,
“I can’t help it, you’re so hot, you make me so crazy”,
and as a young woman I thought this was empowering, I thought I held the power; I thought this was a compliment about me. When I was in my 20’s, these kinds of things would make me think,
“Wow, I guess I’m so pretty that men can’t control themselves around me”,
and the strange thing is that thought made me feel good about myself and my struggling self-esteem.
Today as a 38-year-old woman, if I a man I was not in a consensual relationship with said this to me I would see him as a weak man or a man manipulating me to get what he wanted. These kinds of statements are acceptable (and great) within the context of a relationship, but never from a stranger, a boss or a coworker. In those settings it is inappropriate. If my story does anything, I want it to help you understand how deeply complicated this issue is.
I don’t have the answer, but I think we need to talk about it. I think the first step to finding the answer is to bring it out into the light, to no longer allow for this to be a hidden thing that lives in the shadows. We need to hear from women and from men. We need to hear the stories of all the subtle ways sexual harassment permeates our culture. I don’t owe anyone my story, and neither do you. The telling of my story isn’t because it is owned, but because it is a truth that I want to speak.
I started working at 14, and for the next decade plus 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 life of balance, 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 pee.
Then, 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. 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 then 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 life of balance. 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.
I love this Bucket List Journal, it has various categories to help you expand your creative thinking, including Things to give, Creativity, Education, Transportation, Entertainment, Sports, Spirituality, Movies and Travel. If you are in a relationship, make sure you check out this Bucket List Book for Couples.
Learning to create a meaningful life is a 3 part process. First, you must clean your plate, you must clear the decks, you must empty out the thoughts, habits and beliefs that are currently funning your life. Second, you must set the stage, build the nest, prepare the soil, you must set up your mind, emotions and body for fostering the present moment. Third, you must gain absolute clarity on who you are and what you need to feel alive and thriving. You must know, without any doubt, the life you are creating. Not the details and logistics of it – but the feeling of it. You must know the taste, smell and feel of it, while at the same time embracing that you have no idea how it will present itself to you or what it will look like.
So, lets just take a little bite out of part one. Let’s empty one little part of your mind. The Should’s. Take a moment and answer the following questions. You can print this out and write your answers, or just answer in your head.
If you are interested in exploring this further and actively creating a Meaningful Life, sign up for my Meaningful Life Bootcamp (currently on sale!).
If you are like me, logging onto Facebook or reading the news can be an emotional upheaval. Depending on what the news is, it can even become an anxiety trigger. At it’s worse; it can alter my energy and change the course of my day because of how it affects me.
I am happy to be a sensitive person who feels things deeply. I think this is a good experience of life and I would never change it. However, for those of you who are open and sensitive like me, you know how sometimes the truth of something can strike you at such a deep chord, there is no other appropriate response but grief and tears.
Staying abreast of current events is important. It is valuable to know what is going on in the world and to get involved and let your voice be heard on topics that are important to you. However, it is also imperative to keep your own wellbeing and health in the forefront of your attention.
Here are 3 things I do to help me stay grounded and vibrating at a high level (even while staying current on what is happening in our world.)
For me, during the week, my maximum news/social media saturation is about 45 min. I usually check in with the world in the morning for around 30min, and then some days I check in again in the late afternoon for 10-15min.
I am also a firm believer in fasting. News and social media fasting, that is. It is important to go an entire day, or even an entire weekend without logging into social media or reading news on the computer. All of us have people and experiences in our lives that are more important than our screens (news and social media). I recommend looking at how you spend your time and making sure that the time you spend with each experience is in alignment with how important that experience or person is to you in your life. For example, if I am acting unconsciously, I can easily spend more time on Facebook than I do with my husband. Because my husband is vastly more important to me than Facebook, I find more joy, love, and connection when I live consciously and prioritize appropriately.
Each of us has a natural wisdom, and when we are constantly putting things in, we leave no time for that wisdom to come out. Furthermore, when we read things that create stress for us, our bodies are filled with the stress hormone cortisol.
Christopher Bergland says, “Scientists have known for years that elevated cortisol levels: interfere with learning and memory, lower immune function and bone density, increase weight gain, blood pressure, cholesterol, heart disease... The list goes on and on. Chronic stress and elevated cortisol levels also increase risk for depression, mental illness, and lower life expectancy.”
I witness daily how difficult it is for my clients to use their phone and computers with intention. I understand that for some (many) people self-control around how frequently they ‘log on’ is a challenge. However, when most people allow how it is affecting their health to really sink in, it becomes obvious that it has to monitored by your self-control.
Choose the time of day that you engage
Choosing the time of day that you engage in reading news and social media is really important. It is unwise to stress yourself out right before you go to work, have dinner with your family, climb into bed, or engage in a creative process. Knowing that you might see or read something that will create an emotional response in you, you have to choose the best time to expose yourself to that input.
I like to engage with news and social media in the morning before I exercise. Nothing helps me manage my stress better than exercise and nature. If I am emotionally triggered by news in my feed and then I go for a run outdoors, I can come back and begin my workday in a grounded and positive energy. If I read the news up to the time that I begin my work day, I will find it difficult to hold the space, think clearly, or be creative.
If I ‘log-on’ in the afternoon, I will try to buffer that by sitting on my porch appreciating nature for 5 min, or having a single-person dance party. This way I make sure that when I go into the last part of my day, which for me is dinner and time with my family, I can be fully present with them and experience the depth and width of my capacity for joy.
amount of positive. People are helping each other, they are showing kindness to each other, they are giving of themselves, and they are caring for animals and nature. Allow yourself to witness it and feel uplifted by it. Take care to gain perspective and see the entire picture so that your focus (thoughts and feelings) doesn’t become pinpointed on the negative in our world. Taking a few minutes to end on a positive note is like having an after dinner mint. It leaves your brain with a sweet and refreshed palate.
When I was in school to become a life coach, the message I heard was clear: I had to choose a niche, and if I didn’t there was no way that I could be successful. I chose relationships because I know that relationships are a part of everything – families, marriages, businesses and friends. If you can build successful relationships, you will be successful in any area of your life. I specialized in relationships while still in school to get my coaching credentials, and this gave me additional education in this area.
I was also interested in the ‘spiritual’ life coach niche, and so I gathered practice an education in this area. My thinking here was the same. There is nothing that is NOT spiritual. When you are sitting in church, when you are walking by the river, when you are on the top of a mountain, when you are drinking at the bar, when you are arguing with your spouse – it is ALL spiritual. Everything in your life and all your personal growth is spirituality-in-action. There is no getting away from this. My additional focus on this niche has guided me countless times in the unique and individual ways that spirituality shows up for various people in various walks of life.
With my love for business, and my passion for entrepreneurship, I didn’t want to neglect business coaching, so I sought out additional training in this niche. There was some really valuable nuts and bolts knowledge that I took away from this education, and a lot of the relationship and spiritual stuff too.
For many years I struggled to claim my niche. My experience with clients is that it is all deeply interconnected. A person can’t work on one area of their lives without it affecting the other areas of their life. Not only that, but sometimes a client would come in saying that they wanted to work in one specific area, and then through the process of coaching they would discover that there was another, much more important area where they wanted to work. Because of these truths, I often felt confused about how to market myself and my services.
Now, almost a decade after opening my business, I proudly claim that I am the “No-niche Coach”. I can meet you wherever you are. Whatever is currently presenting itself to you and screaming for your attention, that is where we will start. If it is your business or level of contentment with your job that is clamoring for your attention, we will begin there. If your relationships are suffering and your heart is aching and loudly calling out to you, we will start there. If your health is demanding your attention, if your inner-peace is rocky - that will be where we open the door to our journey. As we work together, we will discover what else comes up and we will see how other areas of your life are naturally shifted as you shift.
I am the no-niche coach because I am the WHOLE coach. I work with people in their Whole-ness, not in their pieces. Through my work, I assist individuals to claim what they already have, their WHOLE selves.
Mindy Amita Aisling
ICF Life Coach,
NFPT Fitness Trainer,
OMA Certified Mediator
Mindy Aisling is a certified life and business coach in Bend, OR, exceeding all of the educational requirements & training set forth by the ICF.
She has worked with such organizations as St. Charles Hospital, Soroptimists, The Dispute Resolution Center, Olympic Medical Center, Americorps, and Juvenile and Family Services.
Mindy has been featured in the New York Times, The Seattle Times, The Bend Bulletin, The Peninsula Daily News, KOMO 4 TV, The Oregonian and many more. You can learn more about Mindy here.
Mindy offers professional, affordable online coaching to clients around the world, and local coaching to clients in Bend, Oregon.
Licensed and Insured