Category Archives: Coaching

Acting Your Many Ages

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People think that acting your age is only related to your biological age and is either good or bad. My experience tells me it is neither.

Body, Mind, and Spirit
The many areas that form the core of healthy maturity are encompassed under the 3 overall sections of Body, Mind, and Spirit. Acting your many ages means understanding two key points: 1. while we are a physical age, we are also an emotional age, a sensual age, an intellectual age, and many others. 2. these many ages are likely to be at different levels of maturity. So much of life is struggling to gather all our age ducks in a row, or at least in the same pond. It is only when our ages work together that our needs are met.

For example, I have been a competitive amateur athlete all my life, but it is only in the last ten years or so that I have embraced this fully. Because I was a female and Latina, I had no role models to support that part of my growth for many years. My mind told me I was being unfeminine. My spirit responded with anger because I was frustrated with the contradictory messages I got from my family and society. This lead to one semi-fist fight my sister would be happy to tell you about and a few yellow cards from the soccer referee for saying things I probably shouldn’t have said…out loud. Therefore, my body did not perform to the best of its ability because it was not in union with my mind and spirit. As Iyanla Vanzant says: “There should be a natural shift in our consciousness as we mature in life, but sometimes it does not happen.” It was only because I put energy and time into growing up emotionally and spiritually that I now step on a tennis court and play with my body, mind, and my spirit.

What is Maturity?
Think of yourself as being born like a packet of wildflowers seeds. Each area of your life is ready to grow to its full potential.  Some seeds take root easily and flourish with the right conditions. Some seeds land on hard soil, in places with more shade, or in terrain that directs water away from it. Even if some begin to grow despite inhospitable conditions, there may be wind tunnels that batter some areas of your growth so you get stuck in thoughts and behaviors that don’t serve you. A field of wildflowers at its most beautiful and mature is when all the varieties bloom and are mixed in together to create a natural bouquet.

Our natural bouquet of maturity is also at its most beautiful when our body, mind, and spirit bloom together. We have all felt that – even if fleeting – when we, the people around us, and the environment was full of light, air, and nourishment.

Barriers to Growth and Maturity
To fully flourish, we need to identify barriers to our full growth. First, we tend to rely too heavily on the aspects of our being where we have natural talent and reach maturity with little effort. Secondly, we can focus on where we get positive external recognition, like our intellect. The third and most challenging barrier to all our flowers blooming, however, are traumatic events. It is all well and good to say: “Grow where you are planted”. It another thing altogether to think abusive, racist, or economically starved environments don’t result in serious harm and self-doubt about both our right and capacity to blossom.

Never Too Late
The good news is that it is truly never too late to flourish. This takes effort. It’s like trying to pat your head, circle your stomach and hop at the same time – without putting concerted, relaxed effort into the development of our Body, Mind, and Spirit, we cannot do all three at once.

As a gardener and a life-long learner, I suggest that the first step to a beautiful garden or a more aligned life is taking an honest look at the state of your soil in supporting the well being of your Body, Mind, and Spirit. Then, commit to small, prioritized steps to make the conditions conducive for all your flowers to flourish.

Working with a coach is a great way to sort out the state of your inner garden. For a complimentary 20 minute session, call or email me. 510-593-4685; linda@lindagonzalez.net

Transition Time: The In-between Matters

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Do you acknowledge the invisible lines that exist in our calendar in-between tasks, appointments and events? These could be preparing for bed, talking to your partner or kids, thinking through lunch for the week, and checking email. I didn’t think so. When we can unlock the power in these gaps, we will increase both our productivity and our delight. I used to repeatedly start my day in soon to be shattered bliss as if what was written down in my calendar would absolutely come to pass. Conversations with coaching clients awoke in me a lifelong practice: Transition time.

Make the Route Visible
Being realistic and prepared requires we consistently insert transition time into our schedules. It is invisible until you stop wondering why you never get through your daily to-dos and accept that intentional gaps really do matter. If the journey is the destination, then transition time makes the route clearly visible.

Are you convinced yet that transition time is a large and significant part of each of our days? Face it – these invisible lines could even be HALF of our waking hours. It is like the oil that greases the wheel – without using this time effectively, we feel that we are being ‘cheated’, that we are just not organized enough, or worse, that life is too complicated to really enjoy and I had just better lower my expectations.

Guidelines to Befriending Transition Time
As someone continually deepening my transition time practice, here are my best guidelines to achieve your goals and minimize your frustration:
1.  Before each day starts, either at night or first thing in the morning, visualize yourself going from one line item to the next. How long will it really take you to pack a snack, fill your water bottle and get to your destination, including parking and stopping at the bathroom because you hydrated on the way?
2. Schedule time between each appointment/meeting. No 9-10 and 10-11 drama. Think about what you might need or want to do in between each line – water, food, bathroom, reflection, debrief? Transitions are moments of recharge, not distractions to our “important” goals.
3. When life swings you by the surprise transition tail – be compassionate and breathe deeply before entering a gathering that has already started. Your energy is palpable and the important thing is that you have arrived. Smile and walk calmly to a seat, leaving the closest one open for whoever may arrive after you!
4. Keep your aspirations high. Being clear-eyed about transition time will focus your energy rather than dissipate it with apologies and self-berating thoughts.

“If you correct your mind, the rest of your life will fall into place.” Lao-tzu

Begin today to notice and affirm that the in-between matters, remembering that transition time is each day’s glue if we use it correctly.

Where Do You Shine?

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In the midst of a challenging work situation, a trusted colleague asked me: “Where do you shine?” I immediately knew what she meant. What are the circumstances that allow our body, mind and spirit to flow with ease? Where are we emotionally and physically safe and secure? When are our gifts received with open hearts? Where can we learn and growth in an honest and supportive manner?

Habits of Survival

The daily pull of external and internal expectations can cloud our vision until  we find ourselves depleted, unconsciously reverting to habits of survival. This can show up as saying ‘yes’ without thoroughly examining the pros and cons of a situation, group, or relationship. We excuse inadequate communication, tolerate missed commitments, and spend too much precious time processing the past to avoid acknowledging it is time to make decisions about a toxic situation.

Our Right to Thrive

Like the beautiful jasmine pictured above that welcomes me home, we require the appropriate sunlight, nutrients, and water to shine. It is our responsibility to pay attention and that means uprooting ourselves when what we thought was an oasis turns out to be hard clay. Luckily for us, we respond quickly to nourishment if we re-commit to our right to thrive. I used to be annoyed at weeds clawing their way through the pavement or sidewalks. Now I cheer them on as sure signs that the tiny seeds that slid into the cracks are like our determination to shine despite small and large obstacles.

Seeds of today

Think about where you may have let yourself and your gifts be diminished and decide what seeds of action you can plant today to regain your shine. A Chinese proverb sums it up beautifully: “All the flowers of all the tomorrows are in the seeds of today.”

True Prosperity Includes Money

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We have all heard the phrase money is the root of evil. What is so evil about wealth, which is often what people mean when they think of money. What underlies our uncomfortable relationship with money and therefore wealth? And what is an alternative approach that can nourish our lives and break through old thinking that limits our prosperity?

First off, how many know what the actual quote is? It is from the book of Timothy in the bible: “For the love of money is the root of all evil.”

But even so, why can’t we love money? Stuart Wilde says true prosperity is  “Not about how much you have, it’s about how you feel about how much you have.” Another way of saying this is: Our wealth is measured by how much we have that cannot be taken away in all realms, including financial, spiritual, and emotional. How we feel about what we have is completely within our power. Given that, we need to know how we feel so we can see where we can make some changes. What can you do today to use money consciously in creating abundance in your life?

What makes us uncomfortable?

My friend stated her discomfort starkly: “Having money means giving up your life.” REALLY? Probing further, I saw a pattern that repeated itself with many other people in my life. There is a root belief by many that money is associated with greed, resulting in wealth for some and poverty for others. This dichotomy creates a false choice – be rich, or be poor. Many people who are committed to equity begin to earn a good income and then unconsciously find ways to not accumulate wealth. There are always family members or friends who need our help. There are cars and clothes and trips. All well and good until a crisis hits – be it medical, familial, or economic.

Often forgotten is Wilde’s definition of prosperity – it is not what you have, it is how you feel about what you have. Many people who may be poor financially have a joy and contentment that is genuine. Many who have incredible financial wealth never cease to covet more, never feeling it is enough.

At the base of discomfort with money is seeing it as other than neutral. It is merely a vehicle through which energy is exchanged. It can provide for the two lowest levels in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, described as physiological and safety needs.

The problem arises when money is used as THE vehicle for getting our higher needs met, such as love/belonging, esteem and self-actualization. Make no mistake, financial well-being can support these higher level needs, but it neither guarantees or blocks you from achieving them.

We can decide to see money as neutral and one’s degree of wealth measured by how much we have that cannot be taken away. This does not eschew financial freedom based on a false dichotomy of rich OR poor.

As Suze Orman says: “In all realms of life it takes courage to stretch your limits, express your power, and fulfill your potential… it’s no different in the financial realm.”

True prosperity is well worth the effort in all realms of life. It begins by understanding and detaching ourselves from dualistic thinking so that we can nurture a positive relationship with money.

Rest – What is it Good for?

USA: California: Marin County: Point Reyes National Seashore: Elephant Seal pups rest together along the beaches of Drakes Bay (near Chimney Rock)
Elephant Seal pups rest together along the beaches of Drakes Bay

Rest. The body needs it to repair and replenish, the mind needs it to access creativity, and the soul needs it to cultivate peace. When seals pull themselves out onto rocks or the shore, they are not being lazy or sunbathing. They haul out to reoxygenate their blood by sleeping much of the day. This and a thick blubber layer enables them to take deep dives, staying under an average of 23 minutes as they forage mostly at night in the cold ocean waters off the coast.  It is essential for them to carry on at the top of their game. It can save their lives. We too need to reoxygenate.

As a self-employed coach, entrepreneur and writer, much of my time is spent alone, the clock my guide or my punisher.  One might think that is the perfect set up for resting, but it turns out not to be true for me and many others in all kinds of different situations.

I can minimize lunch breaks and breaks in general. My idea of a break can be house chores or a yoga class. Necessary parts of my life, but not fully restful. While my pace is rarely rushed, my “doing” can often not stop until I lay down at night.

I am much more mindful these days of rest as a result of two events a few years ago that helped me wake up to my unrestful habits. The first was a visit by my buddhist teacher. She made it clear I was not sitting on my meditation cushion enough for someone with my practice history. Much of my resistance dissolved and I meditate more regularly now, watching my mind’s frenetic activity with compassion.

The second event was a training I attended with John Gray, the Mars/Venus guru. Listening to him speak about female brain chemistry was like hearing him tell my story.  I was serotonin deprived from months of slowly accumulating insidious habits of unrest. Serotonin is the feel good, “everything is alright” endorphin produced in our brains, and women are often challenged to keep it at a high level.

I am the queen of boundaries and accountability around action and results. I now apply that more regularly around rest and rejuvenation. Buoyed by understanding the issue, I now create more inaction and true rest times in my day. My sister visited this weekend and we had amazing massages and manicures, which I know now are serotonin raising activities. I still use TV strategically to stop for a full lunch break and the Golden State Warriors basketball team are often my evening entertainment and inspiration to play hard and rest with just as much intention. I place boundaries on my work over the weekend. By creating restful evenings and weekends, I naturally organized my work more efficiently.

When I start flailing, I pull out a daily checklist I created 30 years ago as a recalibration tool to pay more tender attention to myself. It now includes more habits of inaction – computer off earlier, 45 minute lunch break, in bed earlier.

Eleanor Brownn says: “Rest and self-care are so important. When you take time to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve others from the overflow. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.”

I moved to Marin County 5+ years ago because I wanted to live where I would go to replenish and rest. I am grateful I can more often practice rest as dutifully as I practice action, because rest is good for everyone and everything that matters to us.

Embracing Your ‘Body of Life’

What does it mean to have a ‘Body of Life’ — seeing your life as having the space and time to encompass your purpose and multiple passions? What happens when we stop thinking one person, job, home, car, educational achievement, or external recognition will confirm our essential goodness?

A ‘body of life’ encompasses achievements that matter deeply and are connected to our purpose on this earth. It is not a resume, although some elements can be found there. It is your footprints in the sands of life; what you did with all your heart, mind, and spirit. It is what stretched you further than you ever wanted and allowed you to receive and give in equal measure. A ‘body of life’ is focused on creating legacy, defined as something handed down from an ancestor or preceding generations; an inheritance; a birthright. This is often connected to wealth or property, but can be anything that endures beyond our lifetime.

For myself, my ‘body of life’ has many components, but is directly tied to inspiring people to embark on a journey of balance and healing for this and future generations.

Two examples from my own life are my children and my writing. My teens are now twenty and embarking on their journeys beyond my constant caregiving and direction. Having dedicated myself beyond anything I could have imagined, I am excited to see what they will do with their increased decision-making and the set of values they have inherited from their parents, their culture, and their larger family and community.

My writing body of work will be, in its most concrete form, books. However, it is also the channels I use to leverage my stories and the lessons I have and continue to learn – the speeches, workshops, and personal conversations that inspire people to take their ‘body of life’ seriously.

Having a ‘body of life’ requires great discipline and unerring belief in our dreams. After he won his first Oscar as a director, Ang Lee said: “I struggled through six years of agonizing, hopeless uncertainty.” How many of us are willing to make that phrase our story to achieve even one of our goals? If we can accept the uncertainty that is inherent in life, we are far more likely to reach a place of fruition. It will mean we have done whatever it takes to truly enjoy the exciting and illusory external recognition, as did Ang Lee. And then get back to work on another aspect of our ‘body of life’!

ivoy5pknWhat unconsciously ingrained belief do we have to give up to get there?  For myself and for Ang Lee, we had to sail beyond what our parents and many family and friends deemed reasonable. No steady job, no determined career ladder, no day like any other. I have friends who think I am involved in pyramid schemes and scams! I have to regularly release the power of others’ opinions , which I can value too much, to live my full-hearted, authentic ‘body of life’.

Being life-long learners means not being stymied or disappointed by the sight of yet another start line. What is one step you can take today to achieve a goal in an area of your ‘body of life’ where you are a beginner?

Focus on what is enduring and nurtures your soul. It is our birthright to be brilliant, healthy and full of joy. As Eleanor Roosevelt said: “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

Every ‘Yes’ is a ‘No’ and every ‘No’ is a ‘Yes’

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How many of you have heard someone say, including yourself: “I have a hard time saying no”? On the converse side, how many have heard people say: “I always try to say Yes”?

Yes and no are flip sides of the same coin. As a life coach, I often remind my clients that to live a more purpose-driven life, they have to consciously say ‘no’ to in order to fully commit to a new ‘yes’.

A Bigger Yes
Imagine life is like constantly preparing a many course meal. You have something marinating in the refrigerator, something baking in the oven, and 3-4 pots and pans on the stove. These courses are family, work, exercise/fitness, creative projects, home, recreation, friends/community. There could be many more. Each of these important areas require you to use both a recipe and your intuition. When, for example, I decided to increase my coaching practice (a bigger yes), I moved that pot to the front burner and turned the heat up, which meant I had to watch it more carefully. I had to move my health and wellness business to the back burner and turn the heat down.

My impulse, as an Aquarian, is to turn the heat up in an area of my life without consciously turning the heat down somewhere else because my resources are both wonderful AND limited. We have to reallocate our time, passion, and enthusiasm regularly. If we don’t, the result of avoiding the ‘no’ behind every ‘yes’ leads to: BURNOUT. The stovetop is a perfect metaphor for what happens when I don’t flip my coin – burnt tortillas, burnt cast iron skillets, and lots of burnt popcorn.

The good news is, as Susan L. Taylor,  African-American editor, journalist and Founder & CEO, National CARES Mentoring Movement said: “In every crisis there is a message. Crises are nature’s way of forcing change — breaking down old structures, shaking loose negative habits so that something new and better can take their place.”

It’s Not the Load
What are some of these old structures and negative habits? I will name two and leave you with two questions to do your own life scan. For many of my clients, they see and personally experience a world full of inequities and suffering. What they don’t see is that their unfettered ‘yes’ to social justice often comes with a ‘no’ to doing justice to their own capacity to do the work with a joyful heart and contented spirit.  As Lena Horne, a singer, dancer, actress, and civil rights activist said: “It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.”

A second reason people keep the heat up and the load heavy is their sense of making up for “lost time”. For myself, that phrase covers up regret. I remember thinking at one time that I had “wasted” my thirties. Why? Because I hadn’t yet embraced my passion as a writer. Because I had played “too” much soccer. Because I did not yet understand the importance of managing my money to create time and financial freedom. I broke down my regret and assessed my ‘yes’ and ‘no’ decisions of that decade until I understood my choices. Recognizing my feelings freed me to share what I have learned with younger people so they can have more information and options than I knew about. Rather than carrying a heavy resentment, I walk lighter with wisdom to share with others. As Ella Baker, an African-American human rights activist said: “Give light and people will find the way.”

Saying Yes and Saying No
In sharing my lessons learned on the two-sided coin of ‘yes’ and ‘no’, I leave you with two questions to consider in all the important parts of your life:
What do you say yes to out of learned habits that no longer, if ever, served you?
What are you saying no to that could bring joy to you and therefore to everyone you touch?

This quote from Audre Lorde, who self-described as “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet”, says it all: “Once we recognize what it is we are feeling, once we recognize we can feel deeply, love deeply, can feel joy, then we will demand that all parts of our lives produce that kind of joy.”

Explore your “go-to” Patterns

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Think of a destination you are used to getting to by a very particular route. Imagine that as you approach the offramp, you see there is another road that might take you there is a more direct way. You don’t really know, so you decide to go your known route even though you have an intuition it takes longer. Exploring our set patterns in any area of our life activates our internal GPS. We can then press the ‘-‘ button to look at the bigger picture to see if there is indeed a more direct route to our fullhearted goals. In doing this, we both create options in case the route we are familiar with fails us and we may discover a more direct, more energizing path to achieve our dreams.

Having been intentionally car-less for over a year, I have been forced to open my phone GPS numerous times when a bus didn’t show up or I misread the ferry departures on Super Bowl Sunday and had to find another way back to Marin from San Francisco. When this happened early on in my car-less journey, I would freeze and decide I needed to buy a car, my “go-to” pattern for 40 years. Each time, I was forced to open up my thinking as I did not, in that moment, have a car. Yes, I went on some crazy public transportation trips and often called Uber or Lyft.

Failing Forward
Yesterday I knew the “plan” (God/dess is laughing) and I knew my other options from so many previous “failing forward” experiences. The first bus never arrived so I called Lyft to get to the ferry. Heading home, I didn’t read the fine print on the ferry schedule that the later ferries added for Super Bowl festivities DIDN’T run on Super Bowl day until I was at the ferry building and there were no ferries to be had. Ni modo. I found a new bus to Marin I didn’t know about and got home safe and sound.

Every time I wanted to rant, I switched the channel to “what can I do?”, which was to read a memoir by Benilde Little called: Welcome to my Breakdown. No pun needed. No breakdown needed. Just gratitude for every moment of clarity and commitment to well being which buddhists call bodhicitta, defined as the complete wish to overcome our emotional afflictions and delusions to realize our full potential to bring all beings to an enlightened state free from suffering. That is a more direct path my internal GPS loves to point out, again and again.

Trusting Your Intuition

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Who in your life told you not to trust yourself? Usually it was an authority figure in your childhood. If you can find the cause, you can interrupt the effect of not believing your intuition, which is an internal guiding system we all have. “People usually experience true intuition when they are under severe time pressure or in a situation of information overload or acute danger, where conscious analysis of the situation may be difficult or impossible,” says Prof Hodgkinson of Leeds University Business School. In my experience, that is also when we are most likely to ignore our intuition.

Feeling overwhelmed and anxious can become an unconscious habit that separates us from our intuition. When frozen with fear, a healthy response is to breathe into the pain and remember we deserve protection and support. Instead of zoning out, we can ask: “What is the real or perceived danger?” This helps me go from effect (overwhelmed) to cause (when did I first begin to zone out?)

A Light at the End of a Tunnel
There are always many options to any situation and that is where our intuition is so critical. It is like the light at the end of a tunnel, giving us guidance as to where to begin seeking the best option. We trust we are good enough and know enough to simply take the step in front of us and pause. This pattern of action and reflection allows us to take in small pieces of information with both our heart and our mind so we aren’t rushing forward without our innate wisdom.

Often we jump headlong into actions and reflective activities geared toward spiritual and emotional growth “have” to be canceled. The idiom of having a “hair up your ass” is a hyperactive discomfort that drives us into obsessive actions to avoid our intuition.

Pema Chodron synthesizes this perfectly:  “Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.”

Our intuition is raw, unfiltered truth and it is helpful to see fear as a step in the right direction rather than a sign to turn away.

Finding Your Purpose

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When I work with coaching clients, I ask them to fill out a purpose worksheet. My clients tend to have an abiding commitment to social justice and equity. They are often challenged to answer the questions I pose because they are deeply identified as problem solvers. This means they don’t spend time discovering and living their lives driven by their unique gifts.

A lens of equity, compassion, and love
When I introduce myself to people, I say that I now do my equity work through my coaching, writing, and speaking. There is no other way for me to view the world except through a lens of equity, compassion, and love. As I am now stocking my new cottage home, I purposefully look for vendors and products that are environmentally friendly at the best possible price, por supuesto.

I no longer doubt my goodness and value or base it on the opinion of others. I also no longer move from a place of needing to be liked or be seen as helpful at the cost of my health and wellness. My perspective is grounded in the belief that all people can solve their problems given the access, resources, and agency to do so. It is a relief to not have to be a serial “problem solver”. That is something I do sometimes, but it is no longer my identity or the driving force of my actions. My driving force is my purpose, which holds infinite possibilities and keeps me on a path where my values do not change even as what I say and do stays fresh and authentic.