Cissy Brady-Rogers
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Archive for April, 2013

What does taking your time look like?   Most often it will be different from what taking my time looks like. We all move at different speeds, each according to our own pace which varies from day to day and season to season, dependent on variables of all sorts–including the weather and internet speed.

Taking my time entails listening to myself–especially paying attention to the level of stress or ease in my body. When I’m moving too fast, tension rises, my shoulders hunch up, my neck stiffens, and I tend toward holding my breath. Those indicators tell me it’s time to slow down and check-in with myself.

Twelve years ago, during a particularly difficult time of my life, I heard the voice of God’s love tell me:

Doing Nothing is Good for Your Soul

Go Slowly

Be Gentle


Over the years these three phrases echo from my depths when I’m moving too fast, doing too much and have lost my connection to a felt sense of the ease, spaciousness and freedom I experience when I’m in alignment with God’s love.

Yesterday was an intensely productive day. As I lay restless in bed, it occurred to me that too much energy out can amp me up and leave me running too fast at the end of the day. I need to slow down, ease on the brakes and give myself short moments of being still during my busy days.

The perennial wisdom of India Arie’s mama (see picture above), my mom and loving mothers everywhere is to  slow down and take our time. For me, checking in with my body and remembering to breathe is a simple but powerful way to re-align with God’s love and release the tension that so easily entangles me in a too busy lifestyle.

How about you? What helps you take your time and work at a pace that keeps your body at ease and your soul at rest?

Two more remarkable women stories that illustrate what it looks like to honor your own experience, discover your dreams and support others in doing the same.

Leela Lee began cartooning  “Angry Asian Girls” during her days at UC Berkley as a way to cope with stress. She’s stayed with her creative inspiration all these years, produced a video back in the late 1990’s, developed a website, produced comic books, and now has a T.V. show scheduled to launch in June.

In spite of obstacles of all sorts, she followed her dreams. Fifteen years after graduating, she’s living her dream as she raises her kids and keeps speaking her truth, even when it displeases others, like her very traditional Korean mother!

Itzel Ortega is another young woman who is faithfully fulfilling her potential amidst numerous obstacles. She was six months old when her parents crossed the border illegally–and the “illegal” status has limited her opportunities ever since.  Leticia Arreola, her former English teacher turned mentor, says her Christian faith inspired her to pay for Itzel to attend college when other money wasn’t available.

Going against the odds these women are now paying it forward by inspiring others. Check out their stories and let them inspire you.

Demi at Boston Marathon

Demi at Boston Marathon

The following personal story was written by my beautiful friend Demi Clark who crossed the finish line for the Boston Marathon seconds after the first bomb exploded. I met Demi in my Health Coach training at Duke Integrative Medicine last fall. From our first encounter, I loved Demi’s strong voice, engaged, passionate way of being in her life. When she shared that she’d had a long history with an eating disorder, I wasn’t surprised.

Demi embodies the powerful potential that I see in my eating disorder clients. Many have similar big, bright and radiant spirits. Uniquely blessed with an expansive consciousness and exceptional capacities for empathy,  intuition, creativity, sensory awareness and intelligence, the eating disordered thoughts, feelings and behaviors temporarily help them contain and regulate the vast spiritual consciousness that their families, schools, and faith communities haven’t even a clue exists.  And often leaves those same loved ones feeling powerless to support these girls in their healthy development.

Demi’s life testifies to the powerful lives of loving service that are possible when we listen to our hearts, allow ourselves to be as big and bright as we are, and follow our dreams. Here’s her story:

It’s Sunday night. I just tucked my kids into bed, almost identically to the way I have every night of their short first- and third-grade lives. Kisses, plus a hug, and an “I love you.” The only addition — which has been part of the routine since Monday, April 15 — “Do you all feel safe tonight? Mommy and Daddy are here if you need us.”

My husband and I not only consider ourselves lucky to ask that question every night, we are downright grateful and blessed to do so. The parents of precious 8-year-old Martin Richard can’t do that anymore. The parents of Krystle Campbell and Lü Lingzi can no longer call their children and ask, “Do you feel safe tonight?” And countless families are still in the hospital, supporting loved who are in critical condition, or without limbs, who face long, long roads ahead. That’s thanks to two terrorists, who have changed the world as all of us know it.

I happened to be “that girl with the pigtails” who was 10 feet from the finish line of the Boston Marathon as the first bomb exploded and we found ourselves in a war. I say “war,” because I’m also a health coach. I have clients who are soldiers currently downrange in Afghanistan; they called me later, saying we all earned our “combat stress” badge that day. The sights, sounds, smells, and horror are all still very fresh in my memory. Yet I NEVER want to forget. If we forget, we can’t change the future for the better.

I also coach Girls on the Run, and nothing is more rewarding than seeing those 9- to 11-year-olds happy, healthy, active. Their actions and their attitudes inspire others to get off their iPads and move. They help make the world a happier, healthier place.

Happy, healthy people don’t place handmade bombs next to 8-year-old children, knowing the immense destruction that will follow. Happy, healthy people do things like participate in the Boston Marathon; happy, healthy people have raised $127.9 million since the Boston Marathon Charity Program started in 1989.

So, today is not the day to scream at the guy who cuts you off in traffic. It’s not the day to eat a can of frosting because you can start eating healthy tomorrow. (I had an eating disorder for two decades — trust me, it won’t make you feel better.) It’s not the day to ignore your mom. Or your children. It’s not the day to work late — for the 100th day in a row.

It IS the day to pay it forward. Take your dog for an extra-long walk. Buy your neighbor a Starbucks. Lace up your shoes for the first (or one-thousand and fifty-first) time. Our lives have a true purpose. Honor yours by being good to yourself, taking care of your body, and being HAPPY and HEALTHY. Runners have a “runner’s high” for a reason — those endorphins are scientifically proven to make us happier. Runners truly love what they do. I haven’t met too many angry ones. Runners wanting to be faster? Yes. Angry? No.

In coaching, we have a saying: “So what? Now what?” I’ve asked myself that a million times in the past week. What are the odds of me being right there at that horrific moment (with my family right there in the finish-line bleachers), with 26,999 other runners ahead of or behind me? Why was I spared, without so much as a scratch on my body? I will never know the answer. But what I do know is that I’m still here — and now, I feel this overwhelming need to inspire people.

Demi's Girls Maize & Willa at Finish Line

My goal then, from here on out, is to motivate as many people as possible to get off the couch. I want to urge everyone to draw up a vision board, to decide on a goal, then to make it happen. I have a quote from Homer on my home-office desk that says, “Go forth confidently in the direction of your dreams!” It has served as my internal compass for  years. Find yours. Faith over fear, life worth not net worth — whatever your quote, pick something that puts the fire in your belly to be better, and go do it. Let’s get each other off the couch. It’s OUR time to win.

You can hear more of her story at CBS News and The New York Times.

Thanks to Théoden Janes who first published this story on his blog covering the Charlotte, North Carolina running scene.

I love coffee. In college and graduate school I drank a lot of coffee. My husband even roasts his own: Dave’s Roast – The Cure for Common Coffee. But sitting around in coffee shops ingesting caffeine and calories I don’t need isn’t particularly good for my health.

A Harvard Business Review blog about the health risks of sitting caught my attention. Most people sit more than we do anything else (she noted while sitting at the computer)–including sleeping. At work, in the car, on the computer, in front of the T.V., while eating or socializing over coffee or a drink–the author suggests that sitting is the smoking of our generation.

Many health risks are associated with excess sitting including: increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol levels. It also seems to increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer.

In light of the potential lethality of excess sitting, James Levine (an M.D. and researcher at the Mayo Clinic) advocates we shift away from a “chair-based lifestyle” by finding alternatives wherever we can. These included taking regular stretch and stand breaks if you must be seated, standing while on phone calls, adjusting your work station to a counter height so you can stand, or even creating or buying a treadmill desk.

The blog author schedules four walking meetings into her work week. She reports many personal and professional benefits, including adding 20-30 miles of activity to her week.

My contribution: walking is the new coffee. Instead of spending money and ingesting calories and caffeine I don’t need anyway, I’m going to start suggesting a gentle walk instead.

Who’s on board?

Dr. Levine’s campaign against a chair-based lifestyle goes beyond physical health: “Go into cubeland in a tightly controlled corporate environment and you immediately sense that there is a malaise about being tied behind a computer screen seated all day,” he said. “The soul of the nation is sapped, and now it’s time for the soul of the nation to rise.”

Let’s rise up and do this!

What will be your creative alternative?

How might you get out of your chair and into motion this week?

Set a timer on your computer to alert you to get out of the chair every hour and do something active. It doesn’t need to be much.

Your body and soul will be better off if you do!

A recent article by celebrity chef and author Mark Bittman claims processed foods have taken over and left most consumers “lost in the supermarket” without a map to navigate the maze of enticing but potentially destructive choices. He cites the work of journalist Melanie Warner who asks an essential question that food manufactures, as well as the USDA, neglect when allowing new “foods” into the the market:

“The big question is this: ‘What happens when you manipulate food, take it apart and put it back together again, all the while adding new or altered ingredients?’”

The decisions to introduce high fructose corn syrup and palm oil into the United States food system in the 1970’s were political and economic. No one asked, “How will this impact metabolic functioning? Will the human body recognize and process these effectively? Is there any potential harm?” We now know that the consumption of these two products have played a major role in our nation’s health crisis.

Investigations into Warner’s question indicate that our bodies don’t metabolize processed foods the same way as whole foods. They also play a role in activating chronic inflammation in the body which is the root cause of many diseases.

The solution for the lost in the supermarket haze is to shop the perimeters where whole foods are sold. Dr. Andrew Weil’s anti-inflammatory food pyramid is an excellent visual resource to post on your refrigerator and pack with you when you go shopping.

Rather than focusing on what not to eat, or what foods to avoid, use the pyramid to begin adding in new veggies and fruits. Start small. Try one new food item at a time. If it needs to be cooked, look up a recipe before you go shopping and plan ahead for when you will cook it.

This week I’m experimenting with the fava beans from our garden. I tried a few recipes with last year’s harvest but wasn’t impressed. But with the internet I have hundreds of options available. So, I’ll try again and hope I find something more satisfying this year.

Here’s to going slowly, taking small steps, and shopping the perimeter.

A few weeks ago I posted “Women over 50 are invisible” on my Facebook page. In it the author claims that ageism and sexism leave women over 50 “virtually powerless” in American society. I got “likes” from a number of women over 50 as well as some insightful comments. My favorite comment came from my dear “old” friend Julie who wrote:

“For the love of God, just live your life and stop worrying about how other people see you! How do YOU see YOU. Why in the world would you let others define your value. Only God defines our value . And he says ‘worthy, beautiful, valuable.”

Attitude–the inner orientation we bring to aging–makes all the difference as to whether we’re invisible or radiant sources of light in a world that needs what we’ve got to offer, even if it doesn’t consciously know that yet!

Jody, Kathy and Cissy - Choosing Gratitude

Look at Maya Angelou who turned 85 this month, Margaret Thatcher who died at 88 last week, or my dear friend Jody who celebrated her 70th  birthday last weekend–taking in the Janis Joplin production at the Pasadena Playhouse. Each of these women exude power, beauty, creativity and intelligence in radically different ways because they’ve chosen their own view of reality rather than accept the “powerless” perspective offered by society.

Today author Scott Berkun speaks to this issue in his beautiful piece “On Getting Old.” He writes: “America has a youth obsessed culture, but I find I’m slowly taking arms against it. The longer I’m alive the further I’ll be on creakier end of the bell curve of age, and I better get used to it. I’ve learned to be comfortable as the oldest person at the table now. I can learn as much from younger people as they can from someone older.”

We need each other. And we need each another to be exactly the age we are, not waste our time trying to alter our physical appearance to fit societal standards because we fear becoming invisible.

Jody and Maya are two of my sheroes. They inspire me to choose my own path, celebrate myself, be grateful to be alive, and freely give out of my abundance to others. I learn from them. Jody has told me that she’s learned a lot from me too.

When we follow our souls, rather than live from limited ego-driven cultural views of reality, we discover age is more about attitude than chronology. Jody may be 19 years older than me chronologically, but we’re peers when it comes to soul life.

The poet Kahil Gibran said that our level of satisfaction in life is determined not so much by what life brings to us as by the attitude we bring to life. May we surround ourselves with peers who focus on gratitude and possibility–that we might be sources of healing, creativity and love to all of our soul mates, whatever their age!

Long term change occurs gradually through patient practice and faithful failure. Whether you’re seeking more attuned ways of eating and exercising, better communication skills with family members, or trying to change the world, patience and faithfulness will be necessary.

In writing about the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, Desmond Tutu said that the “faithful failures” and years of “unsuccessful” efforts to restore right relationships among the people of his country “nurtured the soil of godly success.”

I’ve been experimenting with different ways of organizing my schedule and “to do” lists since I began my professional life as a youth ministry intern back in 1985. I’ve had varying levels of success and failure, and days when I just wanted to give up. But, I’ve stuck with it.

Recently I’ve experienced a “breakthrough” — coming into a rhythm of productivity I’d previously only dreamed about. Today I wondered aloud to myself, “Who is this I have become? Who is this woman who moves through her day with purpose, clarity, relative ease, getting things done that align with her goals, letting go of what is incomplete, knowing she’s done what she could?”

It’s tiny, miniscule, and relatively unimportant compared to what Tutu and his brothers and sisters in South Africa achieved. Yet, in the same way that their faithful efforts brought about increased justice and peace for a nation,  my faithfulness has brought greater peace within, which impacts my husband, friends, clients, students, and everyone in my world.

For both great and small scale changes, patience and faithfulness are essential qualities needed to bring about a new way of being in our bodies and our lives.

As we say in the recovery movement, “Don’t give up before the miracle.”

A number years ago I discovered that gluten exacerbates rosacea on my face. When I eliminated gluten from my diet, my skin cleared up. A few days after indulging in some yummy bread, pasta or dessert, the red ruddiness would reappear. So, for the most part I’ve avoided gluten since then.

I’ve also gone through periods of time when I avoided dairy products, limited meat or chicken, experimented with eating vegan. It’s been helpful to learn how different foods affect me. But mostly I focus on eating whole foods, as  close to nature as God created them, listening to my body as my needs change from day to day, season to season. Winter finds me eating heavier foods, more animal products, but come spring and summer I lighten up and eat more fruits and veggies. My focus isn’t on eliminating anything, but eating well to provide my body the energy and nutrients I need to feel strong, vital, able to live a life I love and enjoy.

Recently I hear a lot of talk about people eliminating things from their diets. This is a great way to become aware of the impact of different foods, but it can be a slippery slope for people with any history of disordered eating–be it a clinical eating disorder or the more standard American syndrome of chronic dieting with frequent weight fluctuations.

Eliminating foods can activate cravings for the banned food and lead to excessive eating  of “allowed” foods.

Deprivation often leads to compensatory eating.

For people prone to disordered patterns of eating, adding in nutritious foods before you decide to eliminate others is a wise idea. And, if you have a history of a clinical eating disorder, it’s best to make any significant changes to diet in consultation with a eating disorder specialist.

My husband/research assistant sent me a link to a Men’s Health blog that offers a list of “51 Foods You SHOULD Be Eating.” What struck me as I reviewed the list, is that someone is probably allergic or has sensitivities to everything on it. One person’s health food is another’s danger food.

The essential skill for finding the right diet is to listen to your body and become your own expert on how foods effect you.

What combination of foods throughout the day support your physical energy, mental motivation and clarity, and emotional stability?

It won’t be found in any book or website, because the wisdom lives inside of you.

Listen to your body.

Yesterday I got back on my bike–hooray for me!

I’ve been contemplating getting back on my bike for months. My shoulder injury and surgery last year put my cycling adventures on hold. In December I got back to cycling in the safety of an indoor studio. But since then, although I talked to my husband about it, spoke to my friends about it, committed to my spinning instructor that I’d do it…I didn’t get back on my bike.

Where was the motivation I once knew? I love to ride my bike. Of all the varied activities I engage to stay in shape, brighten my mood, and lift my spirit, cycling has been the most life-giving exercise for me.

What happened? Life happened.

That is often the story behind our inability to make changes, even changes we want. One thing we value gets in the way of doing other things we want to do, or things we know we need to do for our best health, our best life.

Preparing for change is a necessary, but often neglected step. I had to develop a plan in order to get back on the road. My bike had a flat tire, hadn’t been lubed, needed a tune-up. Which meant either taking it to the bike shop or enlisting the support of my husband because I gave up my bike-mechanic career years ago. And, I didn’t want to head out on my first ride in a year and a half by myself. Which meant planning with a friend or my husband (who hasn’t been riding either) a date to actually get the bikes in the car and meet at the Rose Bowl to ride. So, I enlisted Dave’s support and he got the bikes tuned up and tires pumped up a few weekends ago.

But then, life happened: we had dinner guests and other commitments one weekend, Easter and other plans already scheduled for the next.

You know the story. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. As my favorite Saturday Night Live character Rosanna Rosanna Danna used to say, “It’s always something…”

Making time and space amidst the competing priorities of life is another necessary step in the change process. This past Saturday evening I made a commitment to myself that I’d ride my bike on Sunday. One way or another, I’d do it. Even if it was only one lap around the parking lot at the Rose Bowl, I’d just do it.

Dave joined me and yesterday afternoon we put on our cycling clothes (another potential obstacle is not having the right clothes…right? Can’t ride a bike in any old clothes like when we were kids…), packed up the bikes, helmets and cycling shoes, and headed to the Rose Bowl.

It's always something: Oops, wrong shoes!

We unpacked the bikes and got out the shoes only to discover I’d packed my indoor cycling shoes that have different cleats from my outdoor cycling shoes! Ugh! Another obstacle.

Determined to make it happen, I took a short spin around the parking lot in my orange indoor/outdoor slippers and decided it was good enough. It didn’t matter what anyone else would think of me, decked out in all the right clothes with slippers on my feet. I just did it!

And it was great! We rode a few laps, got a tiny sweat going, and enjoyed the perfect spring day. I loved it. And I loved being back on my bike.

Obstacles to change, even change we want, are many. Preparing and planning for action, enlisting the support of others, and pressing through barriers that arise in the process are expected parts of change.

Integrative health coaching is a partnership and process designed  to help people make changes that support good health. If you or someone you love could use some help getting back on their bikes, reducing stress, making dietary changes, or anything else that might get in the way of optimal health, I or one of the colleagues I trained with at Duke University’s Integrative Health Coaching program would love to support you in the journey.

Contact me and I’ll help you get started on the road to the change you’ve been considering but delaying because life keeps getting in the way.

In a N.Y. Times opinion piece titled “Diagnosis: Human” ethicist Ted Gup points out how pharmaceutical companies and medical providers collude with our human tendency to look for quick fixes and easy answers to life’s messiness.

The author takes responsibility for his own culpability in the tragic death of his son: “I had unknowingly colluded with a system that devalues talking therapy and rushes to medicate, inadvertently sending a message that self-medication, too, is perfectly acceptable.”

He goes on to point out a number of the ways that human experiences–like the  “excessive” energy of little boys or the grief of a broken heart–get pathologized, then medicated, rather than worked through as expected parts of the developmental cycle.

In earlier times, spirituality was the remedy for troubled souls. Prayer, meditation, and other practices were the “medication” people used to regulate the dissonant energies of life. Today, with increasing interest in holistic approaches to healing, studies indicate that mediation can be as effective as medication for a number of mental and physical symptoms.

Certainly for some folks, like those I wrote about in my blog yesterday, medications are essential for stability and functioning. But for many, like the author’s son who died at 21 from abuse of alcohol and drugs, learned dependence on medications may do more harm than good.