This post is a more of a personal communication than a typical blog post but it seems a good way to get the message out.
My husband and I have recently made a decision to sell our house in Brisbane and pursue our dream of living on an acreage block. We’ve talked about it for many years but have always found it to be far more logical and sensible to live in the city where we can easily commute to our respective jobs. The idea has never gone away though – and so late last year, when we stumbled upon the perfect place for us in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, we decided there really is never a good time to make these kinds of major life changes – so why not now?
Some of you know that I’m quite passionate about animal welfare, and so for a long time I’ve wanted to live in the country and provide a little sanctuary for rescued animals. I’ve also envisioned that this place would have space for me to create a meditation hall/retreat space where I can run mindfulness workshops and courses. The place we have found is an 11 acre block so it’s certainly big enough for us to keep animals, and as a bonus it already has a fully self-contained cabin with 3-bay shed which I hope to be able to convert for use as a meditation hall and workshop space, or perhaps even to provide short-stay accommodation as a writer’s or artist’s retreat.
What this means for my psychology practice is that I will continue to work from my office in Ashgrove on Tuesdays and Wednesdays only. Over the coming months my goal will be to build a client base on the Sunshine Coast. I am running my Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy course on Tuesday nights in Brisbane commencing February 3rd but I’m not sure for how much longer I’ll be able to travel to Brisbane to run an evening course so if you’re considering doing the course, I’d encourage you to register for this one.
I am currently looking for a space to see individual clients on the Sunshine Coast for a couple of days each week and will also be looking for a space to run courses and workshops until I can hopefully create my own space. I’ll keep you posted via my Facebook Page or my Newsletter when those details are all confirmed. By all means, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you know of a place that might work for me!
I’m also still confirming dates for the next Introduction to Mindfulness workshop and plan to run this both in Brisbane and on the Sunshine Coast in late February or early March. Again, stay tuned either by Facebook or by subscribing to my Newsletter.
I look forward to keeping you updated on the progress of our semi-rural sea change, and my availability for individual appointments on the sunny Sunshine Coast.READ MORE
To finish off my mini-series on NON-resolutions in the lead up to the new year, I thought I’d share some information on one particular theory of how change happens, especially for any of you who have ever tried, or who currently aspire to change an unhelpful pattern of behaviour. I think this is especially important at this time of year when many people become very intent on doing things differently with a whole brand new year about to dawn. I hope that before you create a list of new year’s resolutions as long as your arm, you’ve already read my previous posts on the topic here and here.
So about the change process… I know that when I share this information with my clients, they tell me it’s interesting and useful and usually grab some paper to copy it down after I’ve drawn it on the whiteboard (that’s when I tell them to just take a picture with their phone. What did we do before we could take a picture of everything with our phones?!) so I hope it’s helpful to you too.
This particular model of change, whose proper name is the Transtheoretical Model of Change (or TTM for short, developed by Prochaska and DiClemente in 1983) suggests that when it comes to behaviour change, most people move through six stages, as shown in the figure below:
Now let me talk you through the stages, hopefully without boring you…
Precontemplation is when you don’t see any need to change or you’re not yet ready. In pre-contemplation, you might be unaware of the negative effects of your current behaviour or you perceive the pros of your behaviour to outweigh the cons.
When you move to the Contemplation stage, you are considering making a change, but you’re still very much in the “will I or won’t I?” mindset. In the contempation stage, the pros and cons of a behaviour are fairly evenly balanced and this stage is characterised by a LOT of ambivalence. If you know someone who is in the contemplation stage (or if you are yourself), it can help to engage in some objective weighing up of pros and cons, but it’s important to recognise that if someone is in the contemplation phase, attempting to force a change can backfire.
Preparation occurs when you recognise that things need to change. The costs of the behaviour start to outweigh the benefits and you move towards thinking about how this change might look in your life. This is a time for thinking and planning, gathering resources and defining goals.
Action is when you implement the change, whatever it may be. You might commence the exercise plan or sign up for the quit smoking program or delete the ex’s number from your phone. In this stage, the new behaviour might feel unfamiliar and urges to revert back to the old way can be strong. This is where your good preparation will pay off (such as removing temptations from the environment), and so does mindfulness (there’s a thing called ‘urge surfing’ we can talk about another time).
Maintenance is when you’ve been practising the new behaviour for a while and it’s beginning to feel easier. Urges reduce or diminish and the new way of living is starting to become your new ‘normal’. When you’ve maintained a change for long enough, you exit the cycle and get on with living.
BUT… you’ll notice another stage in the process and that is Relapse. This is when, sometime after you’ve initiated a change, you revert to your old behaviours. This is the bit I think is most important when people find they’ve broken all those New Year’s Resolutions, as I alluded to in this post.
When it comes to making any kind of long term behaviour change, slip-ups are usually an inevitable part of the process. Sadly though, many people see a slip-up as a failure and get really down on themselves. When that happens, they frequently give up completely and a slip-up becomes a full blown relapse. It doesn’t need to be that way, and here’s why:
If you’re able to accept slip-ups as a normal part of the process, you can learn important lessons from them. For example, you might be able to identify the triggers which led to your regression so you can know to avoid them in future, or you might recognise something in your environment that needs to change to more effectively support you in achieving your goals.
The good news is that most people who experience a slip up usually only regress back through one or two stages; for example you might revert from maintenance to action, or from action to contemplation. The research indicates that particularly when it comes to health-related behaviour changes, most people don’t revert all the way to Pre-contempation. So once you’ve started on the path, you might cycle around it several times on your journey to permanent change and that’s ok. Being on the path is the important thing.
Are you on the path? I’d love to know if this has helped you recognise where you’re at in the process.
I hope you’ve found this post (and this series) helpful as you prepare to ring in the new year. 🙂READ MORE
I stopped making new year’s resolutions a long time ago. Even when I was running a successful full-time Life Coaching practice, helping people to achieve their goals, I was very clear that I don’t care much for new year’s resolutions.
I do, of course, fully support any effort to make positive changes in one’s life; I just think there are better ways than the traditional “From 1st January, I will…” approach.
What’s wrong with resolutions?
1. The Willpower Factor
I already covered off in a previous post that most people choose to make sweeping life changes on the first day of the new year, and outlined all the reasons why this is not a wise idea according to the latest research on willpower. In a nutshell, willpower is a finite resource so if you attempt to make too many changes at once, you’re more likely to deplete your resources. Starting slowly and building new habits that become so routine they no longer require a lot of willpower is a much more effective approach to making long term change.
2. All or nothing
A resolution, by definition, is a statement of resolve. I resolve to either do something or not do it, commencing 1st January (or whatever date you choose). Stating your intention in such absolute terms only allows for passing or failing. If you resolve to go to the gym three times per week, as soon as you miss a session you’ve broken your resolution. Many people slip up on their way to achieving goals and this is no sign of failure – in fact, it can be a great opportunity for learning and growth – but resolutions don’t allow for slip ups. The feelings of discouragement (and accompanying negative self-talk) make it difficult to pick up where you left off, which is why many people have shelved their resolutions by mid-January only to bring them out and dust them off again on January 1st next year.
3. The laundry list of resolutions
“Get fit, get out of debt, drink less, eat better….” *yawn*. It’s a long, boring list only serving to highlight all your perceived inadequacies and there isn’t very much inspiring about that! Combined with the high probability of breaking all those resolutions due to points 1 & 2, people find themselves by mid-January adding lack of self-discipline to their list of (supposed) faults. It’s a lose-lose.
An alternative approach
I’d like to share my preferred options when it comes to planning what I’d like to achieve in the coming year.
1. Get clear on your intentions.
Living with intention every day is more likely to take you closer to the life you want to create than any list of goals.
You might, for example, have an intention to live more simply. Or more sustainably. Your intention might be to foster more authentic social connections, or stretch yourself and step out of your comfort zone.
Living with intention cuts through the to-do list of goals and requires you to get clear on your values.
From values and intentions, goals and actions emerge very organically. For example, if your intention is to nurture social connections, you might be inclined to cut back on social media and make more effort to have real conversations with people in your life. Your decision and action is inspired by an authentic value whereas creating a new year’s resolution to ‘spend less time on Facebook’ is unlikely to stick.
2. Choose one word.
I first read about this approach several years ago in this blog post and I’ve chosen a word every year since.Your word for the year can encompass many different life domains and represents a kind of ‘theme’ or thread that weaves through all areas of life and influences your decisions and actions. Some of my favourite words over the years have been Compassion, Courage, Simplify, Unsubscribe and Balance.
3. One Year From Now.
When it comes to setting goals, imagine yourself a year from now looking back on what you’ve achieved. Decide on the specific accomplishments that are most important to you and that are likely to make you feel proud and satisfied. Then wind back. How will that look in six months if you’re on track to your best outcome. How will it look in three months.
It can be fun to make a vision board either in real life or on Pinterest to bring your goals to life and add a sense of excitement.
You might have personal, family, financial and business goals. Make them specific and write them down so you can refer back on your progress throughout the year. Give yourself a full year to map out a course for achieving these things. Nothing magical needs to happen on 1st January; so you don’t have to try to achieve everything all at once; and there are no resolutions to be broken.
Sometimes at the end of the year, I find there are some goals that aren’t achieved or only partially achieved. Regardless, I know that by writing down my objectives for the year and systematically working towards them, I have achieved far more than I would have had I not set any goals at all.
A life lived with intention, values, a sense of purpose and clearly defined goals is far more likely to bring you success and fulfillment than another year of procrastinating on what’s most important to you. But if you have a long trail of broken new year’s resolutions in your past, maybe it’s time to try a new approach.
Do you make resolutions? I’d love to hear what works for you.READ MORE
It’s that time of year again, when the season’s festivities are behind us and with full bellies and a bit of enforced downtime, we tend to reflect on the year that’s passed and think about changes we might make in the coming twelve months. It’s at this time of year when we are generally inclined to make New Year’s Resolutions. With the new year and the promise of a whole new start just days away, it seems like the perfect time to take all those life changes we’ve been contemplating and put them into action.
Except, no. While I’m a huge fan of making positive changes in your life, I am not a fan of New Year’s Resolutions and I’d like to explain why.
First of all, many people decide that the first of January is the ideal day to overhaul their whole life. Does this look familiar?
There are reasons why this approach isn’t usually successful.
Setting and achieving goals requires a degree of self-control. Let’s call it willpower. What we know about willpower thanks to the work of psychologist Roy Baumeister, is that it is a finite resource. In other words, if you use too much of it, it runs out! ‘Willpower’ is the same energy resource that is used for:
- Getting ourselves to do things we don’t want to do (like exercise)
- Refraining from doing things we do want to do (like having another piece of chocolate); and
- Making decisions.
These are the things which deplete our reserves of willpower. If you’ve ever wondered why you stick to your diet religiously all day only to blow it at night, this could be your answer according to Baumeister. At the end of a long day of exercising restraint, turning up to your job when you’d rather go to the beach, making multiple decisions and concentrating on tasks, your willpower reserves have been depleted.
The good news is that willpower can also be replenished and one good way to replenish it is with food. It seems that glucose in the brain (note that glucose comes from any food source – this isn’t about sugar) is what refills our stock of this energy we call willpower. Is it any wonder that when you go on a diet and hence willingly restrict your food intake, that your reserves of willpower often aren’t up to the task… especially in the evening? Keeping your reserves stocked up with regular snacks has been shown to increase the energy available to stick to tasks, make decisions and exercise restraint.
The other important thing Baumeister has found is that willpower is also a bit like a muscle that increases in strength the more it’s used. By exercising self-discipline in small doses but frequently, we are positively reinforced for our efforts and our willpower increases. I guess if we go back to the energy metaphor, it’s a bit like our willpower reserve tank gets larger.
Most people don’t realise that the act of making decisions draws on the same energy reserves that we need to exercise self-control. Barack Obama is aware of the phenomenon and for that reason, he only wears a blue or grey suit every day to reduce decision fatigue. Similarly, having daily routines helps to conserve your limited reserves of willpower so you can save it for the more important tasks and decisions. For example, people who opt to exercise every day are more likely to achieve long term success not just because of the consistency of their efforts, but because by committing to a daily routine, they effectively take the “Will I or won’t I?” question off the agenda, thus conserving that willpower so it can be put to use in other ways.
(Remember, when it comes to making decisions, if your stocks of willpower are low, such as when you’re tired or hungry at the end of the day, you have less energy for negotiation or compromise and are more likely to revert to default options or lazy choices).
So before you make a long list of new year’s resolutions… remember these key points!
- Rather than attempting to make several life changes all at once, choose just one goal at a time, work on it systematically, and as new habits are formed and your willpower muscle grows, move onto the next goal.
- As much as possible, reduce decision fatigue by building routine into your life. If you say you’re going to meditate (or exercise or have an alcohol free day) three times each week, then every day you are faced with deciding “Is this going to be one of the days or isn’t it?” Decide the days in advance, or better still, choose to do engage in healthy habits EVERY day.
- Don’t expect to make good choices on an empty stomach. Keep your willpower reserves stocked up with regular food and rest.
In upcoming posts, I’m going to be adding to this series on goal setting with posts about:
- Why I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions but prefer to set goals and intentions for the year ahead
- Why slip-ups don’t mean failure and are an important part of the change process
It’s a funny thing, really… that for all the advances in technology and the myriad wondrous inventions we’ve created to make things quicker, easier and more efficient, somehow we’ve come full circle and now find ourselves so overwhelmed by the busyness and sheer pace of life that we are all looking for ways to slow down.
Fast food, cheap fashion & social media are the signs of our times. They are relatively new concepts in our culture, and all serving the common purpose of providing instant gratification.
But the truth is that despite all the inventions designed to make life easier, the number of ‘friends’ just a button click away, the prosperity we enjoy and the abundant choices presented to us every time we hit the supermarket or the nearest shopping mall, we are experiencing our highest ever levels of anxiety, depression, obesity and debt.
Depression is in fact the leading cause of disability globally. Consumer debt is at an all time high. The planet is being destroyed. We are disconnected, isolated, and dissatisfied; working harder and longer, yet never being rewarded with the grand prize of happiness that we so long for.
And so it appears we have woken up to the con of ‘fast’.
Voluntary Simplicity. Downshifting. Minimalism. These are all terms used to describe a growing movement towards unhooking from our technology-addicted, consumption driven lives and finding five minutes of peace and quiet in the simple activities and lifestyles our grandparents might have enjoyed.
The slow food movement was born in Italy in the 1980s when Carlo Petrini and a group of activists objected to a McDonald’s being constructed on the Spanish steps of Rome. Fast food is a disaster for animals, the planet and our own health. Today, ‘slow food’ embraces the values of wholesome food, grown locally and sustainably, and offering a fair price and conditions to its producers. It is the antithesis of fast food and processed food. ‘Slow food’ values time taken to prepare and enjoy meals and the role of food in connecting family and friends. Most importantly, it’s a reminder to slow down in every aspect of our lives.
The slow living movement takes its cues from these same principles of mindfulness, connection and community.
Slow fashion for example, objects to the speed at which clothing designs move from catwalk to chain store, inviting us to reconsider our fashion purchases and opt for choices that will sustain us beyond a seasonal trend. Fast fashion pollutes the environment with its manufacture and its rapid disposal, and demands we keep spending money as seasons and styles change.
Where ‘fast fashion’ often utilises offshore labour with unfair working conditions, chemically laden textiles, and rapidly obsolete trends, slow fashion calls us to choose quality over quantity. It also emphasises getting back to basics and repairing or re-purposing pre-loved clothing. Big fashion houses are lining up to get themselves accredited with Ethical Clothing Australia. Thus, it would appear that consumer demand for high quality, ethically produced fashion exists, and that suppliers are happy to meet our demand.
Slow living invites us to unhook from the continual distraction of our screens and gadgets by taking a regular ‘digital detox’ and spending quality, purposeful time in our real lives and connecting with our people face to face.
With a quick Google search (the irony), you can find a multitude of manifestations of the slow movement: people living in tiny houses, embracing thrift and minimalism, and living in intentional communities. Blogs like Zen Habits and Becoming Minimalist have millions of subscribers, such is the level of interest in scaling back and slowing down.
Most of us will never truly escape the hustle of modern life with our gadgets and our shops and our busy jobs. But we can look for small ways to slow down, shed what is unnecessary from our homes and schedules, shop more ethically and choose more wisely in every respect.
What about you? How do you find ways to slow down?READ MORE
What if we all had a secret…?
Dr Anthony Grant posed this question to our class in 2003 when I was a student in his Masters of Coaching Psychology program at Sydney University. Tony was discussing the things that cause us to feel ashamed or afraid of rejection (at least I think he was – it was a long time ago now!) He mentioned the prevalence of ‘imposter syndrome’ among some of the most successful leaders in the business world, and just how common it is at every level of society and every stage of life, to feel like we are somehow inferior.
I was young at the time and had just left a job in an organisation where I’d been one of the youngest members of the management team (by about two decades!) Instead of feeling proud of that position, I’d mostly felt like a kid playing at the grown up’s table.
And so, what I recall most vividly about Tony’s seminar, was how struck I was by this idea that no matter what kind of job someone has or how much money they make, no matter how much posturing and pretending we might do, underneath we’re all the same; we’re all vulnerable. We all struggle.
In the decade or so since that classroom discussion, this idea of universal suffering, that we are all swimming in the same sea of self-doubt and that we all have a version of the ‘not enough’ story playing on repeat in our minds has been presented to me over and over again. In many ways it has been liberating and life-changing.
I’ve also learned that it isn’t enough to grasp this idea with your intellect alone. The reason Brené Brown’s 2010 TED talk on vulnerability went viral is not just because people related to the idea of imperfection, but because we were touched by her authenticity. What has ensured her books became bestsellers was not her explanation of the theory of shame, but her willingness to display her own vulnerability in a very public way.
To be able to move from understanding and relating to an idea of common humanity (i.e., that we are all struggling together) to having that understanding change how you live your life is where the real challenge lies, and where the greatest personal rewards are to be found. In his autobiography, The Fry Chronicles, Stephen Fry referred to
“the distance between the mask of security, ease, confidence and assurance I wear… and the real condition of anxiety, self-doubt, self-disgust and fear in which much of my life then and now is lived.”
Apparently, he’s not the only one. If we all had the same secret, it would be that we each believe to fit in and be accepted we need to be someone other than who we truly are, because if anyone knew us properly… I mean the real, imperfect, flawed version of ourselves, they would judge and reject us.
Our universal suffering looks a lot like shame. It might show up when you lose your temper with a child; or when you are still single while everyone else is coupled up; when you feel stuck in a dead-end job while everyone around you is pursuing a worthy career. This is the pain of comparing yourself to others and coming up short every time. It also manifests in the form of private battles with food, alcohol, perfectionism, or depression.
Rather than own up about our flaws, or talk about the shame of feeling not good enough (or smart enough, or thin enough, or wealthy or successful enough), we set about using a bunch of strategies to protect us from being rejected. Brené Brown calls this ‘hustling for worthiness’. She says that:
If we spend a lifetime trying to distance ourselves from the parts of our lives that don’t fit with who we think we’re supposed to be, we stand outside of our story and have to hustle for our worthiness by constantly performing, perfecting, pleasing, and proving.
If it’s true that we all have the same secret, then we have all hustled for worthiness at one time or another. In fact, I think every day we’re hustling, and there is a real danger that we’re becoming more and more disconnected and isolated in the process. Every now and again, we might get a glimpse into someone else’s private world and we’re fascinated to compare ourselves and see how we measure up. When someone willingly opens up and admits to their feelings of inadequacy, our relief is palpable. And in that moment of shared vulnerability, there is real connection.
But how many of us are willing to be the first to share? It’s a bizarre paradox that all of our pretence is designed to keep us from being judged and rejected when in fact the greatest opportunity for real connection is to reveal our inadequate, human selves.
When you know and own your imperfections, there is less to fear and less to defend. And even better, you have the opportunity to offer others a remarkable life-changing gift when you own up to your struggles and thereby give them permission to do the same.READ MORE
I could happily live without a television and yet we have two televisions in our home. I admit there are some programs on commercial telly that I really enjoy, but my tendency to get hooked on a cooking or home improvement show is, for me, another reason to not have the TV in the house because much like wine and hot chips – while I may well enjoy those things, I also know they’re not very good for me.
For now, I’m stuck with a TV due to fierce opposition from my husband and daughter, but I’m not anywhere close to giving up on my anti-TV crusade, and here are all the reasons why:
1. Commercial TV advertising
Research confirms that television advertising increases our desire to buy stuff. Suddenly we want stuff we never even knew existed and our levels of life satisfaction decrease. Of course the TV is not singularly responsible for our increased consumerism but there’s a reason TV advertising is so expensive and that’s because it’s powerful. Children are particularly susceptible to this effect if we aren’t actively educating them about advertising in the media. A Dutch study confirmed that 8-11yr old children who watched more television were more materialistic. I use my 8yo daughter as my litmus test for this. After she’s watched commercial TV for any length of time, the list of stuff she wants grows longer… every time.
2. The News
Don’t even start me on the news. Is there anything more depressing? Of course we all know that there is a lot more going on in the world than the 30 minutes of depressing highlights you’re fed via a (probably biased) television news program each weeknight. I think it’s important to be aware of what’s happening in the world around us – that makes us responsible citizens. And the older I get, the more effort I make to know who I’m voting for and what they stand for and how this affects my family and broader community. But I do not believe it’s vital to my existence to know of every violent death that’s occurred locally and internationally in the preceding 24hrs and I do not need that negativity in my lounge room and within earshot of my daughter. So I turn off the news.
3. Television kills conversation
I know it from experience and I hear it all the time from my clients. Time spent sitting in front of the box with your partner is not quality time. If there are particular programs you enjoy watching together and which prompt you to engage in conversation, that can be fun for sure. But coming home at the end of the day and veging in front of the telly for a few hours before crawling into bed (or worse still, falling asleep on the couch) creates disconnection and dissatisfaction in relationships.
4. Television is often mindless
And I’m much more about being mindful in my daily life because the benefits of mindfulness are immense and proven. When you sit down to ‘relax’ in front of the television, you’re more likely to eat (or drink) more than you intend to, because you’re not paying attention. More importantly, escaping into television prevents you from dealing with whatever unpleasantness you are seeking to escape. In this way, mindless television viewing is a form of avoidance, whereas living a whole, happy, vital life requires us to increase our capacity to turn towards and tolerate discomfort, not find more ways to escape it.
5. Television shortens your lifespan
That on its own is surely enough to make anyone miserable. It’s been estimated that every hour of TV viewing reduces your lifespan by 20 minutes. Exact reasons aren’t clear but presumably it’s a combination of all those things already mentioned. TV watching is a sedentary activity so unless you’re watching TV while pounding out a few k’s on the treadmill or climbing Kilimanjaro on the stairmaster, the more hours spent television viewing, the less you spend moving your body, breathing fresh air and engaging in physical activities. Our bodies are designed to move, not sit at a desk all day and then come home and sit in front a television all night.
So what’s the answer?
If like me, you can’t have your way in getting rid of the TV, or if you’re not ready to make that change, I offer the following tips to minimise your exposure to its harmful effects.
1. Limit your viewing
Instead of turning on the TV and channel surfing until you find something appealing to watch, check the TV guide online and only turn the television on when there is something you really want to see. Each week, try to have one or two TV-Free days (or even better, no screens at all).
2. Skip the ads
Set your timer to record your favourite program so you can watch it at your leisure some other time and fast-forward the advertisements. The program without the ads will take a whole lot less of your precious time and you won’t be exposed to those enticing advertisements convincing you of all the new things you need to buy to be happier.
3. Do something while watching TV
Lie on the floor and do some pilates exercises or stretches, or if you have a treadmill – position it in front of the telly and get on it during your favourite program. The distraction of the TV should make working out seem less painful and if you’re going to do something mindlessly, it might as well be good for you.
4. Create a TV-free zone
If you’re fortunate enough to have space for a couple of living areas in your home – say a family room as well as a lounge room – make one of them television-free. Keep that space for reading, music, playing board games or talking without the noise and distraction of the TV. If possible, make this space the one that’s more accessible to you and your family, nearer to the kitchen and the major hub of activity in your home. Put the television in the room that’s further away and harder to reach so it’s less intrusive.
5. Consider the possibility of getting rid of it entirely
Rather than immediately shutting down the idea, start to play around with the possibility of what life would be like without it. Be curious and open minded about where your hesitation comes from. What would you be missing out on? What else might you do with your time instead? If staring down a whole evening with your own company seems intolerable, perhaps this is something to work on.
Who’s with me in the No-TV camp? What strategies do you use to minimise it, and if you’ve already gone TV-free, how is that changed your life (for better or worse)?READ MORE
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