Some worked for the state housing department, PATH or for nonprofits like the Salvation Army.
All of them in some way try to help solve the homeless condition for tens of thousands of people in Michigan.
And all of them were stressed. They shared health conditions – arthritis, recent back surgeries, sleep problems.
They shared the guilt they feel not being present for their families due to the nonstop nature of their workloads.
They shared that they want to do more for themselves but didn’t know how.
I taught “Service, Sacrifice and Selflessness: Workplace wellness and your health” at the Michigan Homeless Summit this Monday and Tuesday.
There were 400 registrants. My sessions drew about 80 people total (second day always sees fewer as they get ready to go home).
I was struck by how much we practice self denial. It’s a painful, unproductive, and incessant loop.
While I do think my program offered some tips to help, I need to continue to sharpen the lesson plan. There’s always room for more tools in the toolbox.
I noticed several patterns:
1) A lot of us don’t give ourselves credit for baby steps. We want everything resolved immediately or we want to jump in with a big program. If you go to one class, do just 10 minutes of breath exercises, take just a 15 minute walk – it’s cause to celebrate. Bigger isn’t always better. And starting has to begin somewhere. But we don’t like to give ourselves credit for the small efforts and we quit quickly because we feel the small efforts are insignificant and didn’t show any results. We must let go of this results-oriented mindset when it comes to mind-body wellness.
2) I used to. I heard so many folks say “I used to do tai chi” or “I used to do yoga” or “I used to eat better.” Somewhere along the path we abandoned something that nourished us. We decided to deny ourselves or we were not worthy of this nourishment. Look at the “I used tos” in your life and ask how did they become I used to? What’s stopping me from making them “I dos” now? Notice the negative self-talk that’s criticizing yourself for having stopped and push mute on that voice. Allow the positive you that misses that nourishment. You’re like a plant that is begging for water and sunlight. Plants that “used to” drink water and get sun are dead plants.
3) Smile and be happy. We don’t feel we deserve it. Our sessions were held in the glass-walled and glass-roofed 17th floor of the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa. Attendants were treated to a nearly 360-degree view leading out to the Grand Traverse Bay. They gasped as they walked into the room. They grabbed their cameras. Some just sat in their chairs and stared out in wonder and reflection. We did movement exercises, walking meditations and some light yoga. And we smiled. For many that was a treat. They said they wanted to move. They wanted to feel good. But we can all stop, look outside or look up in the sky and smile. It’s within our grasp every day.
All I did was remind them of that.