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This site is an archive of our Well Written Blog posts until April 2020. For the most up-to-date content visit NWIJournal.com.

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I Skipped My Step Aerobics Class Today

Posted By Lisa Medley, Friday, February 8, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Instead of going to class, I went back to bed.

I didn't feel like it.

I wasn't beating up on myself for not going.
I wasn't judging myself for being "lazy."
I wasn't shoulding on myself. 

I usually go to a step aerobics class (yes, it still exists!) on Tuesday mornings. I love it! I get to sweat from every pore of my body, my brain gets to work out too as it is keeping up with the choreography of steps, and I don't have to create anything; I just show up and do what the teacher tells me to do.

This morning however, I checked in with my body and my energy and wasn't feeling it. This kind of class takes at least 75% energy in the tank and I didn't have it. I had worked on a deadline driven project over the weekend — not my norm, and it happens sometimes — with a headache that comes on from time to time (ladies, you know what I mean), and was needing to slap on a quasi-sunny "good morning!" to my son as I shuffle around getting him off to the bus stop in 17 degree weather.

Instead of going to class, I went back to bed. I asked my body what it FELT like doing and that was the reply. I have been practicing being kind to my body long enough that I can trust that when I listen to its needs and respond, I feel better. I don't have to "figure it out" or think my way though feeling better; I FEEL my way to feeling better. 

My body tells me the truth of my internal experience. Without should’s, shame, or pressure to meet impossible expectations from the outside world.

Your body does too. Imagine the freedom of tuning into your internal state and having your inner voice be enough. Embodying the truth that YOU ARE ENOUGH.

How are you FEELING in this very moment? What does your body need to feel good, even better? Even an incremental step, an eye dropper amount of action, a micro movement

Without the need to please anybody except yourself.
Without the guilt of so-called "selfish."
Without the external have to's.

With full on permission.
For your body.
For your life.
For your best self.

Let me know how it goes!

Liberate Your Light,
Lisa Medley

Lisa MedleyLisa Medley, MA serves as a Wellbeing and Body Intelligence Expert. She supports her clients to cultivate positive relationships with their body for sustainable inside-out wellbeing. Lisa believes in reintegrating the body and its wisdom to support the evolution of our divine human potential. Learn more at SoulisticArts.com. Check out her new Instagram page as well: @soulisticarts.

Tags:  boundaries  emotional agility  emotional intelligence  emotional wellness  Lisa Medley  resilience  spiritual wellness 

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NWI Member Spotlight - February 2019

Posted By NWI, Friday, February 8, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Meta CommerseMeta Commerse, MA, MFA, CWP

Meta is a wellness practitioner using the indigenous modality of story medicine. She grew up in Chicago, Illinois among activists, teachers and writers of poetry and music during the Civil Rights and Black Arts movements of the 1960s and ‘70s. There, her life was shaped by a strong activist tradition. It was equally influenced by domestic violence that taught her to resist, to imagine and seek something better for herself and her family, and that compelled her to move away from systematic silence. 

Starting her wellness career as a body worker, a path of learning opened up before her. She learned about the mind-body connection where the body’s state tends to reflect that of the mind. She took a holistic approach to her work focusing on clients in chronic pain. Newly pain-free, most of the women in her practice began spontaneously sharing untold stories of trauma. These stories stunned Meta who felt unprepared to hear them, but listened out of respect. Listening to them eventually reminded her that she had an untold story of her own.

By 1992, Meta made a commitment to heal her life and soon enrolled in a six-month group for women survivors. That group offered her a community conversation in which to see the brokenness that can result from child sexual abuse. She was able to feel the old emotion she had carried in silence for so long, and later looked for a more extensive, holistic program to continue the work. Finding none, she developed one of her own. 

In 1994, with much community support, Meta launched a program for women in Atlanta, Georgia, where she offered it for the next ten years. During that time, she returned to school to explore the problem of violence. She became a teacher committed to helping more people with what she was learning. She learned to see domestic violence as a problem extending far beyond private homes, that it knows no borders and has no limit. It can appear between two people or two nations. She learned that domestic violence is a public health problem impacting lives in personal and public spaces. That domestic violence is a spiritual problem that has wounded the spirit and soul of humanity throughout history. It can be spoken in words or imposed through systems. It can impact the lives of vulnerable people, of men, women, children seeking asylum, or of people denied the care they need. Ultimately, the more she understood about domestic violence, the more she knew about peace.  

Problem Solving 
Meta studied with gifted teachers, especially one who frequently drew from quantum physics. One of his axioms helped her approach the problem of violence with more intention and to see it more clearly. He taught, “Inherent in every problem are the mechanics for its solution.” To her, this meant that persistent study of a problem points the way to an answer. Finally, within the increasing random violence in our country, she learned to recognize the roots of chronic pain and to see violence as rooted in pain. This pain seeks an outlet. Sometimes we direct our pain at ourselves, in various forms such as depression or addiction. Sometimes we direct our pain at others as in bullying or other forms of personal offense. Imagine every perpetrator, every tyrant being driven by such pain! Meta sees this pain as the energy of our untold stories, (of individuals and of communities). Now she asks her students a few key questions: “Do you know your story?” “Do you know its value?” “What have you done with your pain?” She also learned that this medicine was the way of our ancestors, learning how they used sacred memory, words and story, to teach, heal, and generate deep change. 

Today, Meta lives and works as an independent scholar in Asheville, North Carolina. In her groups, classes, readings, and performances, she demonstrates the power of story. Now she knows that through healing work, peace — the principle of harmlessness — will indeed return to the human heart. Teaching this medicine, she writes across genre exactly as her own story medicine emerged. She teaches the value of story to her students exactly as life proved the value of her story. She knows that personal healing and wellness is the beginning spark of community healing and wellness. She learned in her early experiences of struggle, activism, and violence all that she needed in order to seek wholeness and to teach peace. She is grateful for these lessons.  

Meta speaks about story medicine wherever she is called. Contact Meta at wordmedicinewoman@yahoo.com, or storymedicineworldwide.com

Tags:  emotional agility  emotional wellness  Meta Commerse  resilience  story  story medicine 

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Congratulations Michele Mariscal on Your Book Accomplishment!

Posted By NWI, Friday, February 8, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Michele Mariscal with her new book Growing Through GriefOn February 5, 2019, NWI member Michele Mariscal launched her new book Growing Through Grief: The Alchemy of Healing From Loss.

Getting beyond a loss is never easy; the pain can feel as if it will never end. Growing Through Grief helps grievers bring hope back into their lives and provides actionable steps for healing. Whether you’re experiencing new grief or feeling the pain of a loss from long ago, you’ll find encouragement and support in this book. If you know someone who’s grieving and can’t seem to move forward, this book can be a beautiful gift. It is available on Amazon and Kindle.

Tags:  emotional agility  emotional wellness  grief  grief book  Growing Through Grief  mental health  Michele Mariscal  resilience 

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Resilience: A Positive Deviation Amid Difficulty

Posted By Dr Dicky Els and Terrance M. Booysen, Friday, June 1, 2018
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2019

07 November 2016

Article by Dr Dicky Els and Terrance M. Booysen

With the accelerated pace of global development, fuelled by South Africa’s socio-economic and political uncertainty, there are obvious knock-on business implications that increase business risks, not least of which includes dampening the mood for local investment. It is therefore not surprising to see many organisations downsizing, restructuring and even being forced to shrink their trading operations in the face of declining revenue and higher cost pressures. Since the 2007-2008 global financial market crisis, organisations are operating in turbulent markets and have to constantly adapt to increasing business uncertainty and changing circumstances. Whilst there may be numerous economic challenges the organisation’s leadership must deal with in order to remain a sustainable and profitable concern, they also have to be acutely aware of the manner in which these severe economic stressors impacts their workforce.

Employees are not exempt from these socio-economic stressors as they are increasingly reminded by their employers of their precarious positions within organisations and that their employment is not guaranteed. In these circumstances, there is no doubt that employees are being placed under massive pressure given their unpredictable employment conditions. This leads to many personal challenges, some which may be perceived to be insurmountable. No longer does personal or business success automatically go to the swift, strong or smart individuals; instead, these ‘rewards’ are earned by the most adaptable, flexible and resilient of people and organisations. To be sustainable, employees (and indeed organisations) need to learn from their past experiences and evolve as complex adaptive systems.

‘Success’ appears to follow those organisations that accumulate more diverse experiences where their leadership spends time making sense of these experiences, and consequently becomes more resilient and develops more competencies to perform better. Leading organisations and people in these turbulent times require mindful leadership who have the capability to respond to the extraordinary challenges currently facing business and civil society. Good leaders need to be effective; their actions must be impactful, efficient and flexible.


What is going wrong?

In the absence of ethical leadership imbued with positivity; negativity will take root, grow and even thrive. Regardless of what the organisational values are—or what ethical statements are displayed on the walls of the organisation’s reception area—the real organisational culture will inevitably manifest in the behaviour of its employees. The manner in which employees relate, interact, communicate, handle conflict and disagree with each other serves as evidence for what is really happening in the organisation’s culture. By simply observing, listening to and reflecting on the employees’ communication, their interpersonal relationships and their group dynamics; one will quickly realise the true state of the organisation’s ‘health’ and the degree to which the organisational values are being upheld and lived.

What people tend to talk about the most is what they tend to value the most. Naturally, if negativity, back biting, disregard, distrust and emotional outbursts are observed on a regular basis, it then becomes evident how the workforce is actually dealing with the socio-economic pressures and other organisational stresses under which it needs to perform.

Our understanding of how the workforce is dealing with the pressures of modern day business, and the struggle for economic survival, deepens when we observe the particular behaviour of individuals. Many cases of disciplinary action, alcohol and drug abuse, obesity, garnishee orders, divorce and depression typically manifest because of organisational (mis)behaviour which should have been addressed by the appropriate internal structures of the organisation long before it resulted in the disastrous after-effects. When individuals work, and live in constant uncertainty, worry, stress and fear, and they lack the support of supervisors, peers, family and friends; they become more susceptible to not only ‘burnout’1, but sometimes also more detrimental illnesses. Employees with burnout feel cognitively, emotionally and physically exhausted, and in trying to cope with their overwhelming circumstances they also become socially detached.


Weathering the waves of change

For employees to effectively cope with organisational change, work and family pressures, to be resilient, to do well and to thrive, during difficult times they need to be self-aware and self-manage their own health and wellness. They should know their inner capability, talents, character strengths, personal values and ‘what makes them tick’. Without a significant measure of self-knowledge, employees tend to find meaning in what they do instead of in who they are. Likewise, they tend to invest a significant amount of time and energy to only develop their skills, instead of also developing their character strengths. In their hope to find success outside of themselves, or in a particular job or organisation, or even a different country, they become dependent on their circumstances and other people to foster happiness, wellness and success for themselves. Of course, when the economy is down, or when their hopes and dreams do not realise as they initially expected, they become despondent and disenchanted.

A healthy measure of self-insight, combined with virtuousness enables individuals to be responsible for their own progress. By knowing and understanding their inner capability, resilient employees2 are more responsive, open, connected, motivated, and engaged at work. When they are self-aware, they are mindful of their own intentions. They self-manage their thoughts, emotions, attitudes and behaviour to add value to their own, and the lives of others. When resilient, employees tend to share their character strengths, passions, competencies and skills compassionately with others, and in so doing they intentionally have a positive impact in the lives of those that they influence. As leaders, these employees understand and respect the difference between manipulating and motivating their subordinates.



As a source of organisational wellness, and in the context of employee resilience, it is imperative to understand the role that positive leadership plays. Positive leadership—in parallel to the extent to which the culture, policies, and practices of the organisation promote employee resilience—contributes favourably towards human capital development and organisational growth.

When employees are empowered to intentionally practice their character strengths, it generally has a positive knock-on effect within the organisation. Moreover, it also assists employees to persevere in the face of personal trials and adversities, thereby making them and ultimately the organisation they work for more resilient. Employees, who seek, promote, and utilise their inner capability and character strengths will be more inclined to thrive and less likely to withdraw or be mentally distant from their daily workplace duties. This may be attributed to the enjoyment, gratification and fulfilment that is experienced through their work which, when geared towards the development of their character strengths, will yield rewarding positive experiences that also cultivates organisational resilience.

CGF Research Institute’s Workplace Wellness Consultant, Dr Dicky Els also regularly presents Positive Coping as an in-house wellness intervention. For more information, bookings or should you wish to participate in one of our public Flourishing Wellness Interventions, please contact Dr Dicky Els on 082 496 7960 or send an email to dicky@bewell.org.za

1 Burnout is not a true mood disorder, but rather a psychological condition in which employees feel chronically sad, anxious, lonely, mentally distant and cynical which is accompanied by distress, a sense of reduced effectiveness, decreased motivation and the development of dysfunctional attitudes and behaviours at work. It is the result of consistent and unsuccessful attempts to resolve work (or personal) stressors. Work overload, inordinate time demands, role ambiguity and inadequate resources leads to burnout that over time results in ill health. Other factors that lead to high levels of stress and burnout include the lack of personal control, reduced decision making authority, dysfunctional team dynamics, poor job fit, a mismatch with the organisational values and constant experiences of negativity at work.

Generally, employees that suffer from burnout lack organisational commitment, and they are less capable of providing adequate client services, especially along dimensions of decision-making and involvement with clients. A number of challenges can be observed, such as a tendency to treat people mechanically, to be critical and cynical, and they are preoccupied with self-gratification. Burned-out employees are disengaged, and lack performance as they contemplate to leave the organisation but reluctantly stay. As a result, they tend to be complaining, controlling, impatient, indifferent, discouraged, frightened, frustrated, resentful, bitter and selfish. Burnout employees also report the absence of meaning, purpose and positivity in their lives. Ironically, these employees used to be enthusiastic, motivated and energised at work, and they used to function well in the same job or organisation but in the present time they require assistance as they struggle to recover on their own.

2 Resilience is the capability to “bounce back” to a normal or even optimal state of functioning, mostly in the mist of being stretched or challenged with adversity such as uncertainty and ambiguous circumstances. Resilient employees demonstrate positive psychological growth, accomplishment, and achievement regardless of their circumstances. It is their ability to cope from within, and positively cope with adversity, trauma, stress and illness. Amid being stretched or challenged with adversity, they demonstrate the ability to quickly recover from difficulties. It is their deliberate, positive and constant efforts (lifestyle) that help them to manage taxing personal and organisational demands. The most celebrated cases of resilience are often depictions of individuals that overcome overwhelming odds in order to be stronger, have a positive human impact and exhibit moral goodness.

It is important to understand that resilience is not an extraordinary gift but rather found in the daily conduct of individuals who demonstrate positive coping behaviour. Basically, they are able to effectively balance or counter negative experiences with positive ones while at the same time they learn new competencies to adapt in challenging situations. They are faithful, reliable, authentic, focussed, controlled and engaged. Resilient employees experience hope, efficacy, autonomy, meaning, fulfilment and happiness amid economic decline, downsizing and organisational change. In general, resilient employees are more thankful, peaceful, generous, forgiving, self-less and inspired while they enjoy social connectedness and supportive interpersonal relationships.

Dr. Dicky ElsDr Dicky Els is a Lead Independent Consultant in CGF. He specialises in Workplace Wellness and focuses predominantly on strategy development, programme design and evaluation of outcome-based health promotion programmes. For more information on our Employee Wellness Programme Evaluation or Wellness and Disease Management Audits, contact Dr Els directly on 082 496 7960 or email dicky@bewell.org.za.

Terrance M. BooysenTerrance M. Booysen, the CEO of CGF has presented numerous interventions to public and private audiences in and out of South Africa and has received many accolades directly linked with corporate governance. He is a regular podium presenter and is considered knowledgeable in the practice, having produced many governance, risk and compliance reports and articles over the years. More information regarding CGF can be found at www.cgf.co.za

Tags:  Dr Dicky Els  emotional agility  emotional wellness  International Wellness  mental health  resilience  Terrance M. Booysen 

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Wellness Coaching – Somatic Approaches to the Rigid Character Defense Structure in India

Posted By Preeti Rao, Monday, April 2, 2018
Updated: Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Preeti Rao
Founder & CEO, Weljii

Interestingly enough there are strong cultural implications of an Indian society that amplifies the rigid character defence. Through Barbara Ann Brennan’s work, we know that the main issue of people with the rigid character defence is claiming their authenticity (Brennan, 1993). This is caused by separation from their core essence and complete focus on keeping their outer world appearance perfect (Brennan, 1993, pg.245).

This disconnect with one’s core seems prevalent in the Indian culture. According to industry consultant Eugene M. Makar, traditional Indian culture is defined by a relatively strict social hierarchy (Makar, 2008). The joint family system still prevalent in smaller towns and villages plays a significant role in the Indian culture. It is a system under which extended members of a family – parents, children, the children’s spouses and their offspring, etc. – live together. Usually, the oldest male member is the head in the joint Indian family system. He makes all important decisions and rules, and other family members abide by them. (Indian Families, 2011) Makar also mentions that from an early age, children are reminded of their roles and places in society (Makar, 2008). Hence, unlike the west, family relationships in the Indian community do not operate under the nuclear family models. The majority of the families still work within the communal models, which prefer family honour to individual freedoms and choices (Verma, 2010).

These strict rules and the social hierarchy structure puts pressure to keep up the appearance of everything perfect, with no fault or weakness, in order to survive. Children in India are potentially denied of negative experiences and parents and society at large force them to establish a false sense of the world. The parents and other family members control the whole outer environment to create an illusion of perfection (Brennan, 1993). Since the head of the family in India usually makes the decision, there is little room for others to express their individuality (Makar, 2008). My assumption hence would be that the inability of a person to express their individuality could potentially make the defence action of the rigid character heightened by attempting to become even more perfect (Brennan, 1993). An Indian would usually have a seemingly perfect spouse and a perfect family. They are usually successful and make good amounts of money. They aim for perfection in all aspects of their lives (Makar, 2008 & Brennan, 1993).

The rigid character defence mechanism of everything is perfect correlates with the obsession with perfection in the context of the Indian culture. Most Indian people aim for not only mere success but demand it ruthlessly (Verma, 2010). While this person may be open to the idea of therapy as yet another form of self-improvement, they are usually not open to the emotional surrender necessary to break through the character structure. In addition, society at large usually heaps great rewards upon this person for their high levels of achievement. Unfortunately, all of that vicarious support only makes it more difficult for this person to find happiness (Johnson, 1994).

So it is highly possible that due to the constrains imposed on Indians by the society’s norms and rules, that these people constantly avoid the feeling of being unloved for who they truly are. They may find themselves resonating with, “I need to be someone you want me to be.” This may be because they’ve learned clear rules of what is ok and what is not ok at the expense of their own individuality. It’s all about being perfect but according to someone else’s standards and in this case it could parents, extended family, friends and the society at large. They can potentially experience the constant fear to do and feel the right thing. They usually fear that love will be withdrawn if they do not comply with the societal ethics and hence it is possible that their inner world is repressed and sometimes completely denied (Johnson, 1994).

Another interesting aspect that can be correlated with the rigid character defence is the fact that in present India, sex and sexuality are still considered topics that are tabooed. Topics such as male libido and female orgasm do not trickle the bedroom of an average Indian. The subject of sexuality is neither approached clinically nor as a natural phenomenon. It is always been veiled behind stigma, taboo and mystique. It is a common phenomenon for most Indian families to deny opportunities for open discussion about sex. Usually such taboos and restrictions are accepted with no questions asked (Roy & Rizvi 1998).

Similarly in a person with the rigid character defence the child’s natural erotic strivings and expressions, including masturbation, are greeted with anxiety, rejection, severe disapproval or punishment by sexually repressed parents. In the rigid character defence, an inadequate sense of self can be caused by the separation of love feelings from sexual feelings.  Repressed sexual feelings are pathologically expressed through psychosomatic symptoms, in frequent sexual activity without any love involvement (“flings” or affairs), restlessness, hyperactivity or “flighty” behaviour”, or diverted into ambitiousness in the material world. The latter seems to be more relevant to the Indian society were sex is taboo and the sexual energy is diverted to material possessions and success (Jejeebhoy, S. 2000).  I wonder whether this repressed unresolved Oedipal conflicts causes deep longings for the opposite sex with persistent fears of betrayal

It is also important to note that India is a patriarchal society where a woman is supposed to have a place secondary to a man. For example, a woman will take father’s name at birth and husband’s name after marriage; a woman is expected to deliver a male child; only the man is authorized to perform religious ceremonies and rituals; upon marriage the man gets a substantial amount of dowry from woman’s parents and brings home a wife who is expected to live with his parents (Verma, 2010,pg. 1). So the idea of self is even more denied with women than with men in the Indian society. Hence, it is important to be extremely careful in deciding somatic and coaching interventions for the Indian women clientele.

Understanding the correlations between the Indian code of conduct and morals, and the rigid character defence can help to understand how to respond in a positive healing way towards my future Indian clients in coaching sessions. Some of the things that will make it easy to protect my boundaries while engaging with rigid character defence is that these folks have a strong balanced auric field with their boundaries in place. That means that I won’t have to worry about controlling my bioplasmic streamers or my vibrational frequency (Brennan, 1993). As a coach it will be important for me to facilitate an environment where my client feels that, “All of him/her is welcome”. While enabling the client to feel his or her own essence, it is important for me to connect cellularly with my own essence. The mantra of the rigid character defence, “I am real” vs. “I am appropriate”, would be most healing for the Indian clientele grappling with this character defence.  While doing so, it will also help to acknowledge the gifts of this character defence. The gifts are that these folks are usually very generous of their time and emotions – this can potentially explain the Indian hospitality – they inspire others, are loving and passionate. They usually are natural leaders and are usually very easy to be around (Johnson, 1994).

Since Indians in general take great pride in their successes and accomplishments, as a coach, it would be imperative to establish a respectful and professional environment which facilitates acknowledging the person’s genuine accomplishments in life, and the seriousness and concern for how he or she has successfully managed many aspects of adult living. It will also be important to create a space where they could acknowledge the confusion and disappointment they feel that in spite of these achievements and have no judgments if he or she is bored, lonely, restless and or dissatisfied (Johnson, 1994).

As a coach it would be challenging but imperative to create pathways that would allow my Indian clients to develop flexibility in approaches to life’s tasks and relationships while relinquishing the exaggerated pride and need to hold back. Since both men and women are programmed to function in set ways in the society (Verma, 2010), as a coach if I would create a space that would allow my client to surrender to their fears of becoming weak, vulnerable or losing face (Brennan, 1993). I could create a space that will encourage my clients to experience their true self while still respecting cultural sensitivities.

This will encourage my client to become aware of and open up to the true depth and beauty of the self that exists beyond the superficiality of appearances and performances enforced on them by the society at large. It would help these individually caged in the rigid character defence to recognize their higher self-aspects, especially their capacity to love fully and to see that their gifts are there even when hidden behind the mask. And that although they have a wounded aspect in their personality, they need not identify with that aspect in order for it to get the help it needs (Johnson, 1994).

As the coaching interventions continue the person may drop the mask and release the raw negative feelings. At such junctions, fear of pleasure and expansion may need to be addressed as it comes up with reassurance and no judgment. And based on the client’s own new experiences; it will be important to facilitate an environment that grounds them to embrace their new energy and spiritual self.

This article demonstrates how different coaching and somatic intervention are necessary to facilitate clients to achieve goals that they might want to accomplish and feel deeper connection and meaning to.

Preeti RaoPreeti Rao is the Founder & CEO, Weljii. Weljii is the recipient of 50 Best Wellness Companies - Global Listing - award by the World Health and Wellness Congress. She holds a Masters degree in International Business and a Masters in Integrative Health Studies with specialization in Wellness Management and Health & Wellness Coaching. She is India’s only ICHWC Mentor Coach and NWI International Standing Committee Member.

Tags:  emotional agility  emotional wellness  India  International Wellness  Preeti Rao  social wellness  somatic  wellness coaching 

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