The World Needs Healing

Whenever a tragedy happens somewhere on the planet, I become torn in so many directions.  Generally Facebook or the Daily Show are my only sources of news these days.  I have stopped watching the news in the morning because I refuse to start my day with shootings and fatal car accidents and bombings.  Sometimes I’ll watch the local news in the evenings to figure out what kinds of activities are happening nearby, but that half hour segment is usually rife with devastation.  Is that the only kind of news that exists?  No, but it’s the only kind that gets ratings, so it’s what is played.

Shows like The View, anything on Fox News and even the Morning news shows are so opinionated and generated to appease the viewers, actually give me a physical response.  The other day at the car shop the TV was set to The View and curiously I listened in for a minute.  I couldn’t help myself, but roll my eyes and shake my head to the nonsense that they were discussing.

I keep asking myself “why.”  Why are we talking about red cups instead of poverty?  Why are we only talking about Lions being killed in Africa when Foxes are endangered right here in the US?  In fact, there’s 16,306 animals on the Endangered List.  That’s not including the Threatened level species.  There are hundreds of species of animals nearby my current location threatened by the number of fast food cups that appear on the side of my road daily.

Why do we share what we do on social media?  What is the criteria by which you select the stories to share?  When the stories about Paris appeared on my news feed last night, I was deeply saddened.  The number of people killed was at 127 last time I looked.

This is tragic, yes.  But what is it about Paris that makes us change our profile pictures to the French flag?  Or send our thoughts and prayers to those souls in those attacks?  What is it about a school shooting or a child’s death that puts those on the trending list on my home page?

A quick search on Wikipedia puts the death toll of the ebola outbreak at more than 10,000.  What happened to our terror at the outbreak?  It was exciting for a little while, maybe it was fun to be scared of it, but now it’s old news.

So before I respond to a tragedy like the seeming coordinated attacks in Paris, I ask myself “why.”  Why am I posting this update?  Who is going to read it?  If I type “My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Paris” what is my purpose?  Do I think Paris is reading it and will be thankful?  Am I putting out good energy into the world?  Am I just joining in to the conversation to feel like I am a part of something bigger?  Why?

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.  All energy you put into the universe goes somewhere.  When you add your voice to the love, there is a build up of energy.  And when you add your voice of hatred, blaming Muslims for the violence, your energy builds up there.  Who do you want to read your post?  What do you want them to think or do or say?  What is your purpose for the words you put out there?

What does Fox News want us to think or do or say when they play a constant stream of “news” asking whether or not Isis is gaining any momentum or traction from this attack?  Just for kicks I just logged onto Fox News Live Stream and it was playing exactly that.  I always get the feeling that the why behind their stories is to tell me that I should live in terror and that “we” should attack all the scary people out there.

So while I am deeply saddened by the horrific events in Paris, today I don’t just pray for Paris.  I pray for the world.  I pray that this event won’t widen the divide.  I pray for us.  I pray that you stop using the word “they” when you talk about the tragedy.  It is not “them” vs “us.”  There is only us.  What we put into this world comes back to us and this whole world needs healing.  More violence is not my answer.  I hope it is not yours.

I am going to take this particular incident as a reminder to spend my day sending out love, helping others, being a part of the solution.  Picking up fast food containers from my street.  Recycling the plastic we use.  Waving hello to strangers in my town.  Giving a hand to someone who has fallen or dropped something.  This is where it starts.  Peace begins in your own home, in your own town.

Let’s all be a part of the solution.

Allowing Yourself to Let Go

This weekend I visited my sister in Charleston, SC.  It was an amazing, super fun, last minute trip and I’ll write about that another day.  My dogs also had a fabulous time.  They love a good road trip and they got so excited to see their Anna, Nick and Jackson.  On the way home in the car, they were still pretty excited.  I think they wanted to stay awake to be a part of all of the action.  My small dog, Gizmo, was really tired, but kept moving around on my lap, and standing up so he wouldn’t go to sleep.  He kept shifting and moving and going back and forth between my lap and the back seat.  Then, finally, there was a moment when he got on my lap and his whole body relaxed.  He gave in.  He let go, and fell asleep.  And then he snoozed for a few hours.  You could see his whole body go from tensed to relaxed in a matter of moments and as he fell deeper asleep his legs and head just splayed out and drooped.  0630151300

I told my husband how touching it is to be with someone when they finally let go.  It is a beautiful thing to be a part of that process.  For my dog to feel safe enough in a moving vehicle, to trust that I would keep him safe and he could let us take over.  And he could just relax.  And as I was thinking about this, I realized that this is something I love about life coaching and therapy as well.

When someone makes a decision to come into your office for the first time, or make that first phone call, generally they have let the stress and frustration and anxiety and anger build up for a long time.  American humans have a tendency to hold on to what is bothering them for a really long time.  We don’t ask for help.  We don’t want anyone to see how weak we are.  We want everyone to think that our lives our perfect, that everything is great, that we have got it all together.  Sowhen someone has gotten to the point to finally tell me their story, to admit that things have gotten tough, that they could use a little guidance, or a little motivation, or just a little nudge in the right direction, I always get this amazing experience.  Someone starts out talking fast, or in spurts, there are high emotions, there is a story about how they got to where they are now.  And at some point in the conversation, there is always a release.  There is a moment when they pause, take a breath, and let go.  That moment in an interaction with others is something I absolutely love.  It’s a necessary process, a turning point, when someone can let go of the story they’ve been telling, and start to build a new one.

I have the pleasure of being a catalyst for that process, I am there in the moment, I offer someone the space to relax, but it is not about me.  If you are feeling that kind of stress that knots up your whole body, that you feel like you can’t relax, you can’t sleep, you can’t breathe really deeply, then find someone to talk to who will just listen.  It can be a friend, your partner, your parent, a sibling.  Or maybe it’s a therapist, a life coach, a masseuse, your crossfit coach, a psychic, a doctor.  It’s such a healing experience.  Find someone who you feel comfortable telling that you are having a hard time.  When you can release that story, when you can finally pause, and take that deep breath, it allows room for you to start something new.



1029151915a_HDRToday was a new day.  If you read yesterday’s blog you know that I had a temporary meltdown.  I think that’s par for the course, that everyone has days like that.  I was tired, hungry, and spent the day trying to look busy.  So the follow-up of a dead battery and a car that wouldn’t start pushed me over the edge.  I’m pretty sure everyone has days like this every once in a while.

Today was a much different kind of day and it’s the reason I can tell that all of the hard work I’ve been doing over the years is working.  Rewind back just 7 years and this type of incident might have set off days or weeks of feeling down.  For me that usually looks just fine, maybe slightly frazzled or a little tired at work.  I would hold it in and put on a happy face for my professional colleagues and then I would drive straight home to crash.  I would watch tv, read a book, or just sleep.  I would definitely eat like crap and isolate myself.

Today it’s a different story.  This morning I knew that I was going to wake up feeling junky.  That’s expected after a day like yesterday.  Especially since I replayed the incident over and over in my head over night instead of getting a good night’s rest.  But, I’ve been here before, and I know what to expect.  So this morning my alarm went off and I angrily jumped out of bed to silence it.  I got straight into the shower, then turned on all of the lights, turned on some music and made coffee.  I took the time to sit in my sunroom to meditate this morning.  I listened to the crickets chirp, the jets flying over head and the birds.  I took the time to center myself for the day.


When I got to work I wrote down my Core Desired Feelings.  If you’ve never heard of Danielle Laporte and her Core Desired Feelings, you’re missing out.  The very, very basic of it is to identify not what you want to do, but how you want to feel.  I put “supported, connected, joy, freedom.”  I took the time to seek out friendly faces, to smile and chat for a moment.  And as the morning went on I started to feel very good.  This afternoon I texted my friend to go for a walk around the track.  We did 2 miles, talked, and then did some random plyometric moves and had a good laugh about it.

When I got home I decided to take this thing all the way, so I made dinner on an actual plate (courtesy of my in-laws) and set the table for myself.  I ate looking out the window at my front yard and listened to the crickets chirp again.

This wasn’t easy.  It took a lot of work to continue to take actions to make myself feel better and dig myself out of the hole.  But it was worth it.  Tomorrow I know I’m going to wake up in a better mood and hopefully I can enjoy my weekend instead of curling up in my jammies.

Now that I’ve adulted all day I’m going to search for last night’s Criminal Minds episode, and hit the sack early.

Stalling Out and Waking Up

Not too long ago, my husband and I were driving down the road.  Just a routine trip to the grocery store and halfway there the car just stops.  Pfft.  Done.  We were going 55 miles per hour and then we weren’t.  We were pulled onto the side of the road at the driveway to a Walmart.  We made a few phone calls to local tow companies, found one and then sat back to wait.  And it was kind of FUN.  All of a sudden I noticed things about this road I had been up and down many times before.  I had a chance to look at all of the trash cluttering the roadside.  I saw the trees in the Croatan National Forest.  I noticed that this Walmart wasn’t a full Walmart, just what’s called a “Neighborhood Market” whatever that means.  We sat there long enough to really take it all in and think, how did we get here?

broken-down-car Our stalled car is a great metaphor for life.  So often we get caught up in the routine and the mundane.  The wake up, go to work, come home, dinner and bed routine.  And over and over again.  About 10 years ago I remember having a feeling not too different from sitting in our stalled car on the side of the road.  One day I woke up and thought, how the hell did I get here?  From the outside everything probably looked great.  I lived in Hawaii, I was with my fiance, I had a great job doing what I had gone to school for.  I had just bought a new apartment in beautiful Kailua, we had our new puppy, Titus.  I was meeting new people.  But inside I was falling apart.  The routine had brought me to a place of being extremely overweight, I was drinking several beer every evening while I watched TV and made a crappy dinner.  Nathan and I weren’t leaving the house much.  And my job in a non-profit company was slowly sucking away my soul.  Too much work for too little appreciation, monetarily or otherwise.

I looked around me and it was like I had finally taken a minute to really look around.  I started to notice things that I hadn’t before.  Things that had become so routine that I had missed them.  Little things, like the fact that the crumb catcher under the toaster needed to be cleaned, or that I didn’t have to keep putting my coffee maker in that same corner.  I started to hone in on the present moment and notice a lot of things that I had essentially been ignoring.  I had to admit to myself that I was unhappy.

I look back at the person I was then, and I give her a lot of love and a lot of credit.  There was so much unseen stress that she was dealing with.  I wish I could reach back and give her a huge hug.  A lot has changed since then.  If I hadn’t taken the time to start looking at my life, at the reality of the world, I might not be where I am today.  I might still be at that non-profit job, because they always said they needed me.  I might never have started to get supervision for my license.  I might have let myself stay very, very small.

When was the last time you took a look around?  Took the time to see the things you love and notice the things that you would change if you had the energy for it?  I encourage you to take the time right now.  Take a deep breath or two.  Look away from your screen.  Look around you.  Do you like what you see?  If not, don’t wait, now is the time for change.  Pick one thing that you can do right now, get off the computer or phone and do it.

If you’d like a little help, there’s a group of motivated individuals in the same spot you are right now.  Let’s make some changes together.

Jumpstart Your Life

I Am Blessed

I just wanted to share a journal entry that I wrote the other day.  Just an invitation into my brain.  

“I am blessed.
To be here. To be a witness and a participant. To be free. It makes me smile each time I peek through the curtains of life and see what really is. How many times have I missed it? Have I allowed myself to believe that things were any different than exactly how they were. I am blessed to have found a way to the truth.
I am the power in the universe. The glue of the world, the electric spark of creation. I feel the energy coursing through my veins down my arms and out my fingertips. I feel it grow and expand inside. Sick of being held back and denied. Like a built pressure ready to explode, the power within me is ready for me to claim my abilities and go. It is time to create, to see, to hear, to share. The power that has been waiting for me with arms thrown wide, outstretched in welcome. It is a dare to smile and step into the unknown with the knowledge that I am supported. That what I need is there. That my feet will land on solid ground.
The not-knowing is exciting. It could be anything. There are infinite possibilities and all of them are for me. There will be challenges and pain and joy and happiness. And through it all there will be a steady calm. The center will remain as it is while the illusion of life flickers and flows around from the center. I can remain steady and participate fully in what is offered. No fear. All is as it should be.
The excitement of living a full life creeps out of me. The possibilities grow with the knowledge of being supported.
I no longer fear falling short of perfection. Perfection is not and never has been real. It is made up. There is no perfect cup. There is only a cup that holds liquid or doesn’t. A plate with a crack or one without. A pen has ink or it does not. There is no perfect pen or hair or clothes or action to strive for. A pen without ink is not good or bad, it just is.
I am worthy, I am kind, I am as I am. I am ready, I am already powerful. I am changing the world. I am saving lives. I am making a difference. Right now, sitting on my couch under a blanket filling the pages of my journal I am fulfilling my purpose.
I am blessed.”

6 Beginner’s Meditation Tips for ED (Easily Distracted) Folks

If you have ADHD, anxiety, depression or are just easily distracted, then you are familiar with having your thoughts run out of control.  The worries, the shame, the guilt, the fear, can make continuous loops in your mid.  Meditation is a fabulous way to give your mind a rest and to ease your worries for a bit.  With practice, you will find it easier and easier to relax into the zone.  But how are you supposed to meditate when your mind is moving a million miles a minute?

The answer is, it takes practice.  The first time it might not click.  Your mind is like a muscle and meditation is the exercise to strengthen it.  Just like your biceps, if you haven’t used them in a while, you’ll have to do some very simple, very light exercises to get started.  Once you’ve done a couple of sets of light reps a day, you’re ready to add more weight.  With meditation, start with what you are able to.  5 minutes, 10 minutes, 1 minute.  Whatever you are capable of.  Once you’ve practiced for a while, you can increase your time.

Here are 6 more tips for the beginning meditator to help you get started.

1. Sit in a chair with a back.  Googling the word meditation will bring you hundreds of images of yogis sitting criss-cross, in the lotus position, with straight back and hands resting on their legs.  Although this may be one of your goals long-term, if you are just starting out you will want to sit in a chair with a back.  Sitting criss-cross when you are still new gives you one more thing to worry about.  You will be distracted by your feet, legs, and posture.

2. Take the time to get comfortable before you start.  Wear comfortable clothing, unbutton tight pants, loosen your tie.  If your socks have a seam that touch your pinky toe take them off before you start.

3. Uncross everything.  It’s not something that you’ll notice right at first, but as your meditation goes on, your crossed arms, ankles or legs will begin to annoy you.

4. Hold something with a pleasant texture.  Mala beads, prayer beads, rosary beads, a smooth rock.  When your mind begins to wander off a physical object to rub or fiddle with can bring your mind back to the present.

5. Find relaxing music with no words.  There are countless stations on pandora, songza, or itunes podcasts that you can tune into.  The music will keep you from being distracted by talking or noises around you.

6. If you have an itch, itch it.  If you are uncomfortable, move.  There is no rule that says that you are not allowed to move your body when you meditate.  If your leg is falling asleep, stretch it out in front of you.  If a strand of hair has somehow crept into your eye, ear or nose, go ahead and remove it.  If you don’t, if you are anything like me, you will spend the rest of your meditation thinking about how annoying that itch is.  Fix the discomfort and go back to your meditation.

Join me on Tuesdays at Kailua Beach Park for some fun beginner’s meditation practice with friends!  We meet in the large field across the driveway from the kite surfing area of the beach.  Give a call if you can’t find us.  There is a suggested 10 dollar payment, but come whether you have it or not, no one is turned away.

Mary Preston, LMFT


The Upside of Anxiety

When I finally visited a therapist in 2010 I was surprised to be told that, among other things, I have been living with anxiety, probably for my whole life, as evidenced by the stories I told her.  This kind of took me by surprise.  Depression I could see, I had been slowly, imperceptibly falling apart, little by little taking care of less in the house, doing less, drinking more, sleeping more, and caring less.  I knew there was something going on, but anxiety was not what I was thinking.  But as I thought about it more, I realize that there has always been this constant trill of fear, this butterfly like feeling in my chest that sometimes immobilized me and drove me to tears.  It is still there even now as I’m typing, a fluttering in my chest.  For a little while I took Prozac.  It definitely helped, whether it was the placebo effect or not, who really cares.  What matters to me is that I felt better, made some decisions about making changes in my life and decided to get better.

Doing a whole 30 paleo challenge was one of those major changes for me.  It gave me a challenge, a community and getting grains, dairy and sugar out of my diet made a huge difference in my emotional stability.

The other thing that made a huge difference was an introduction to Byron Katie’s “The Work” and her four questions.  It was the first time I was able to separate the thoughts I was thinking from my “self.”  I learned that I am not the thoughts that I think.  I encourage you all to visit her site, and absolutely listen to her audiobooks.  She is amazing.

“The Work” challenged me to think about this fluttering in my chest in a different light.  The feeling was nothing more than that, a physical sensation.  My thoughts about the feeling dictated how I reacted to it.  “I’m  scared that I’m going to give the wrong answer” and “I’m scared that I’m going to look stupid” were pretty common in my list of thoughts in school.  “I’m scared he/she is going to get mad” was another.  Something I learned to do was to recognize that the very same fluttering sensation in my chest was tied to excitement.  Looking forward to seeing my family, thinking about what Santa was going to give me for Christmas, I got the same exact feeling.  And since I am not my thoughts, I worked to change them.  “I’m scared I’m going to look stupid,” changed to “I’m excited to see what happens.”  “I’m scared that he/she won’t like me” changed to “I’m excited to see what their reaction will be.”  Any fear thoughts can be reframed to thoughts of excitement and looking forward to.  What are fear and excitement but different thoughts about what might happen in the future?

I learned eventually that this feeling in my chest never really goes away.  I have it when I wake up in the morning, when I think about what work will be like today, what I will do after work, what the workout of the day will be, what I will be having for dinner.  I’ve learned that it is a waste of my time to allow the fear thoughts much space.  The what-ifs.  What if something bad happens?  Well, what if something good happens?  So much more fun to think about what amazing things might happen.

Now I’ve discovered that I am kind of fearless.  I have gone through life with this fear fluttering in my chest pretty constantly for my whole life.  Once I figured out how to reframe the thoughts, my anxiety turned into a powerful strength.  The fluttering is the same regardless if I’m facing talking to a stranger or hiking a super high ridge on a mountain.  It’s the same whether I’m being asked to get on stage or sit and listen to a book.  When I was younger I was pretty fearless at times, but only when it came to physical activities.  Now that I can control turning it into looking forward to the unknown, I’m one of the most fearless people I know.

Amazingly, my fear has become one of the greatest strengths I will ever possess.

Have you ever experienced this?   What are your thoughts on examining your thoughts?