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Shining a light on mirroring

MirroringShortly after high school, I moved from Long Island, where I had grown up, to a New Jersey suburb. Without realizing it, I adopted the accent and mannerisms prevalent in my new area. When I went back to my home town for a visit, however, I noticed that I almost immediately reverted to “Long Island English” and “talking with my hands.” Why did that happen, and why is it important?

Mirroring

Much later, when I was developing my skills as a coach, I learned the term “mirroring.” Mirroring is the behavior in which one person subconsciously imitates the gestures, speech pattern, or attitude of another. (Thank you, Wikipedia.) We begin to mirror as infants. Psychologists believe it is through mirroring that children develop empathy and, in being mirrored by their parents, a sense of validation and belonging which helps them establish a sense of self.

As adults, we continue to subconsciously mirror others, particularly in social settings where we desire to fit in. It is a signal to the others that you are like them and agree with what they are saying or doing. It can be very subtle, such briefly mimicking a gesture, or as bold as repeating a phrase louder and with more gusto. Others then mirror you and you think, “Yes! These are my people!”

As a coach, I learned to use mirroring to build rapport and trust with clients. Successful salespeople, negotiators and politicians are masters at mirroring. They will have you thinking they totally get you, so whatever they are selling must be what you need.

Avoiding manipulative salespeople is only one reason I think it is important to understand mirroring. The value of that understanding grows as we become more mentally and emotionally mature. It is then we begin to develop an expanded or different sense of self that is less dependent on being part of a group.

Remember, though, that mirroring is deeply engrained in your subconscious, as is the desire to belong. What happens when, with your new sense of self, you walk into your high school reunion and the peers who used to mirror you are saying the same things and behaving the same way they always did? Or at a family dinner when those who were instrumental in creating your original sense of self are no longer mimicking your gestures and, instead of repeating your words back to you, are disagreeing with them?

As much as we would like to believe we can stand on our own, most of us aren’t comfortable being outsiders. The security of belonging is a basic energy of the Root Chakra. When we don’t get those validating signals, it shakes the foundation on which our individual sense of self is built.

How can we each maintain and continue to develop our individual sense of self and still have a sense of belonging and validation? Find a circle.

The power of circle

It is, of course, easiest to find some people who think and act like you do to spend time with, because they will mirror you. But I think the real opportunity in an artfully facilitated circle is to be able to practice sharing your truth, to be heard and held, and have it not matter if anyone agrees with you. Circle can set up a sense of belonging and validation without mirroring.

Circle also gives us practice in listening deeply without taking on other people’s stuff, or even judging it. Especially for an introvert, like me, being able to just sit and listen without the social pressures of needing to interact in the “right” way (i.e. mirroring), or even to respond beyond “I hear you,” creates a sphere of safety. That is powerful validation of both parties’ self-worth, as well as a useful skill for your next family get-together.

I hope that your new awareness of mirroring will shed light on those times when you feel your sense of self is challenged. Perhaps you will be inspired to seek out ways to build a strong sense of self and belonging without needing subconscious validation from mirroring. I hope you will find your circle.

What do you think? Have you noticed yourself mirroring others, or looking for others who will mirror you? How do you feel when they don’t? I’d love it if you would share your insights, so we can all grow together.

If you are going to be a chicken, be chicken number six

1...2...3...4...5...where's number 6?

1…2…3…4…5…where’s number 6?

Before I brought home six chicks, nobody told me how noisy chickens were. I knew roosters crowed, of course, but the hens? It starts in the morning with the “where’s that boy with our breakfast?” complaints and builds to the egg-laying announcements that I’m sure echo off the mountains. And at least once a day there is the alarmed squawking that brings the dogs running and at least one human member of the household outside to count chickens.

It goes like this: “One…two…three…four…five…(pause to look around)…where’s number six?”

When you share space with foxes and coyotes, you don’t name your chickens. We’ve been lucky so far and have all six still with us, but you never know. We thought we lost chicken number six to a feral cat last fall, but a day later she showed up at the gate.

You see, chicken number six won’t stay in the yard. While the other five chickens are content to hunt bugs within the fence-line or to lounge under the picnic table, number six is over the fence and scratching in the woods or, occasionally, wandering down the road. We’re not sure if she’s at the bottom of the pecking order or just an adventurous soul, but she’s always somewhere else.

I was watching number six in the woods today and it struck me that she seemed to be the happiest of the chickens. Since she takes the whole “free range” thing seriously, I imagine she is very well nourished. She has the juicy bugs, seeds and fresh greens that grow outside the fence all to herself. She is clearly fearless, having now had more than one encounter with cats that all end in the cat being told in no uncertain terms to back off. And she refuses to allow anything to limit her freedom.

Today number six is out there on her own, but every now and then the others follow her over the fence. Maybe all chicken souls are a bit adventurous, but only number six has the courage to lead the way. When I think of the women who have inspired me to nourish myself, be fearless and embrace freedom, I am grateful that there are number sixes out there.

Which chicken would you be like? Would you be scratching your way through the woods, or eyeing freedom from inside the fence? Who inspires you to test your wings? I’d love it if you’d share in the comments!

How to make your dream come true

The stories are everywhere, always uplifting, always inspiring:

Every day, people just like you go out into the world and make their dreams come true.

They did it. Why not you? You’re no different than any of these individuals.

Why Couldn’t Your Dream Come True?

2015-05 butterfly+pulling+rockTrue, it sounds hard. In fact, it probably is hard, with a number of obstacles to overcome. That may be excuse enough to put your dream on permanent hold. But how would you feel if you made your dream a reality? How badly do you want that feeling?

“Obstacles are like wild animals. They are cowards but they will bluff you if they can. If they see you are afraid of them… they are liable to spring upon you; but if you look them squarely in the eye, they will slink out of sight.”
– Orison Swett Marden, writer

Could a Plan Help?

The easiest way to turn a dream into reality is one step at a time:

  • Choose one small thing to get done. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
  • Identify what scares you most about taking that step. Ask yourself: What’s the worst thing that could happen if I face this fear? Write down the worst-case scenario, and also write how you would confront it.
  • Choose a small reward for yourself once you’ve accomplished that activity.
  • Then just do it – and check that task off your list.
  • Now treat yourself to the reward, rejoice, and celebrate!
  • Repeat the above steps as many times as necessary and watch yourself get happier and healthier as you move in the direction of your dream. And enjoy the journey.

Need more inspiration? Check out Daily Good – a news blog full of uplifting stories. It’s my favorite source for good news.

What’s your dream? What one small thing can you do today to bring that dream closer to reality? What scares you? I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below!

Why should the last day of spring mean something to you?

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As I’m writing this, Spring 2014 has less than 24 hours left. Most folks are excited for summer to officially start, although, depending on the climate where you live, it may feel like summer already. Here in the Adirondacks, the start of summer was a bit of a shock, because winter-like weather lasted well into spring. We’ve only just turned the heat off at the yoga studio.

Perhaps you, like me, will be celebrating the Summer Solstice this weekend, or maybe a graduation or a wedding. Maybe, if you live in the U.S., you welcome summer on July 4th. However you celebrate, don’t forget to say goodbye to spring.

Before the festivities start, take a few quiet minutes to reflect on the two seasons that have passed. Did you set intentions for this year, or for last season? Have you honored what you’ve accomplished? Is there anything you need to reassess?

I initiated some big changes back when fall gave way to winter. I needed to feel better physically and emotionally. I also needed to look at the directions my career and finances were taking. Heavy stuff.

I’ve been lucky. I have tremendous support from family, friends and my yoga community, and my new family of health coaches at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Even with that support, change is difficult. There have been fears to face, reality checks, uncertainties and second guesses. But there is also slow, steady progress.

I could not have made these difficult but necessary changes without all of that support. I will continue to need that support, as I still have a long way to go.

Knowing the value of that support makes me feel very good about my decision to become a Holistic Health Coach. The best way I can honor all of the support I have received is to give that same caring, nurturing support to others. Together we can discover how to change your life to put you on the path to health and happiness.

Why I write 3 pages about anything every morning

Cover of "The Artist's Way: A Spiritual P...

Cover via Amazon

I purchased my copy of Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way, about 15 years ago. Working my way through the book was an enlightening experience, and the start of many small changes that have, over time, transformed my life.

The tool that I used most consistently, and kept up the longest, was the Morning Pages. From Julia Cameron’s website:

“Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. *There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages*– they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow.”

I did my Morning Pages for nearly a year after finishing the book. I have started and stopped a number of times since then. The latest lull lasted a couple of years. Then I started my Health Coach training at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.

One of the many fabulous things about IIN’s training is all the non-food-related things that support wellness. Early on in the training I was reintroduced to the Morning Pages during an awesome talk by Julia Cameron. (She is a great storyteller.) I dug out the notebook I had been using during the last round and started again.

When my alarm goes off at 5:00 a.m., I am usually already awake. I sit up in bed and grab my notebook, a pen and my book light (so I don’t wake my husband). My brain gets very busy first thing, so I never struggle to think of something to write. It takes approximately 30 minutes to write three pages longhand. By the time I’m done, my mind is much quieter and I can get on my yoga mat focused on my practice.

I have sorted out lots of issues in my Morning Pages and my yoga practice feels much more centered. Try the Morning Pages for a couple of weeks and see where they take you.

I will be including the Morning Pages as part of my 6-month Health Coaching program. Contact me and let me know you’d like to be on the list for a free initial phone consultation during which you can find out how a Health Coach can guide you on the path to wellness.

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