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Talking Sustainable Happiness Through Sustainable Wellness at Urban Zen Center

in Events, YD News

Guest Post From Christa in New York: Curating a Creative Life

“Figure out your service on this planet. Figure out how that service nourishes the Earth and go do that.” ~ Elena Brower

On Monday night, through a tip from the always-in-the-know Yogadork and by the grace of Mike Kim, I was able to attend the Sustainable Happiness event at the Urban Zen Center. The talk was curated by Dr. Frank Lipman, founder of the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center, and included life coach Lauren Zander, Chairman and Co-founder of the Handel Group, and yoga instructor Elena Brower, founder of Virayoga. The talk was part of Dr. Lipman’s series Conversations on Wellness.

The talk kicked off with Dr. Lipman discussing the emerging field of epigenetics, the premise of which was perfectly described in a 2010 Time Magazine cover story: Your DNA Isn’t Your Destiny. Despite what we’ve been told by many people who practice medicine, epigenetics says that we are able to make profound changes in the way our genes present themselves. We are not victims to our genes; they are just one component of how our overall health and well-being evolves over a lifetime. And that component is only roughly 25% of our wellness story. 50% has to do with our lifestyle – our exercise routine, our stress level, the food we eat, etc. The remaining 25% is influenced by our environment – the air we breathe, the water we drink, etc. The best part? It’s never too late to make positive changes that impact our wellness of body, mind, and spirit.

The most interesting part of the evening involved Elena discussing how her life coaching work with Lauren changed her life in profound, unexpected, and sometimes uncomfortable ways. Elena talked about a struggle we all know too well at some point in our lives – our excuses for why we don’t do what we want with our lives. The only one stopping us is us. An ugly, though honest, truth. Lauren’s method helps her clients tease out their beliefs so that they discover why it is they don’t have what they want in their lives.

Being an enormous fan of life coaching, this talk was right up my alley and brought up so many issues that I work on regularly with my coach / therapist, Brian, whom I’ve been working with for 18 months. I showed up at Brian’s door shortly after my apartment building fire to deal with some PTSD issues. I’ve stayed because quite frankly the fire was a wake up call to get my life moving in a more authentic direction. I suspect if Lauren heard my story, she’d concur.

To bring her method of coaching to life, Lauren described several facets in great detail that I found truly thought-provoking:

Chicken and Brat – purposefully annoying, though accurate, descriptions of the voices that pop into our heads the moment we say we can’t do something. We’re either afraid or being stubborn. No, I can’t go for a run. No, I can’t eat healthy. No, I can’t let that guy know I’m really interested in him. All of our excuses can be traced back to one of these personas. So what’s the remedy? Chicken – make a list of all the things you’re afraid of and then go do them. Brat – just stop whining and DO IT!

Happiness Found – we are running all over the place trying to find it. We prop ourselves up with our many vices when happiness is right here in front of us. It’s on the other side of our fears, and its neighbors are confidence and gratitude.

Further Thoughts on Fear – and these just made me so happy to hear that I grinner from ear to ear. 1.) What you are most proud of in your life involves conquering fears. Seriously, make a list of your proudest accomplishments. I bet many if not all of them came about because you conquered a fear. 2.) If you aren’t scared, you aren’t up to enough. You don’t have any fears, you say? Go get some, and then have some fun conquering them.

Promises and Consequences – have trouble keeping New Year’s Resolutions or promises to yourself? Here’s a trick. Make a promise and then give yourself a consequence. Didn’t exercise like you promised yourself you would? That will be an extra hour of cleaning (if you hate cleaning.) Didn’t feel like meditating even though you promised yourself that you’d take 5 minutes out every day to do it? No dessert for you (if you love dessert.) Lauren stressed that the consequences can be funny, but should certainly be deterrents that help you keep the promises you make to yourself. Elena vows that this method, if you get the promises and consequences right, creates new health habits in 6 weeks.

Parent Traits – you vowed you’d never be your mother. You did everything possible to avoid becoming your father. Lauren asks you to make a list of all your parents traits, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Now go do some digging and detail out, in writing, how each on lives in you. Then find a way to evolve those traits to their enlightened state. It’s difficult and uncomfortable, but worth it. Brian’s put me through the same exercise, and in the process has helped me re-write my story with more authenticity and personal power.

The quote at the top of this post by Elena Brower is one that fills my heart until it’s overflowing. It was the most powerful statement of the evening for me, particularly because my vision for Compass Yoga is becoming so clear. Lauren’s goal with her clients, Elena’s with her students, and Dr. Lipman’s with his patients come from this one universal truth: you get one shot in this life as the beautiful creation that is you. Stop making excuses, inventing stories, and living behind half-truths of why you can’t have what you want. Just go get it.

Christa Avampato is a product developer, writer, and yoga instructor. She is the Founder of Compass Yoga, whose mission is to provide free and low-cost yoga to underserved populations. Find her online at Christa in New York: Curating a Creative Life and on Twitter. She lives and works in New York City with her rescue pup, Phin.

3 comments… add one
  • Love this!!! The description of Chicken and Brat were so true and it really makes it easy to ignore them when you think about them that way.
    One thing that I do to make sure I follow through on my goals is to share them… As soon as I tell someone “I’m doing this… and I’ll tell you all about it …” I HAVE to follow through 🙂

  • Hi Katie,
    It’s so true – the more we share our goals, the more likely we are to follow through and we get encouragement from others in the process!

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