What I learned from extraordinary women of all ages in an evening.
I was recently thinking about a panel I spoke on back in the spring, “Live Well! Be Well!” that was put on by GrapeVine Women, an organization originally started by a small group of women who would get together to discuss subjects that interested them, hang out and drink wine. They would sometimes invite experts on these subjects to come in and discuss their knowledge with them. These originally small events, however, became so popular that meetings grew into an organization and they now reach out to experts to speak on and answer questions about specific topics and sell tickets to their events around the greater Seattle area.
For “Live Well! Be Well!” I was honored to be asked to speak on mindfulness and was joined by two other women. Also on the panel were Jennifer Lovejoy, PHD, Chief Translational Science Officer at Arivale, Inc., which uses genetic testing, combined with the power of “big data” and personalized coaching to help clients optimize wellness, and Mindy Pederson, who is the regional head trainer at Orangetheory fitness. Meghan Black, an Emmy award winning broadcast journalist, was there to moderate the event. Immediately, I knew that I was in fabulous female company and would not only share the benefits of practicing mindfulness and tips on how to integrate it into everyday life, but also learn from these accomplished, extraordinary women.
Throughout the panel discussion, we were all asked questions about living well, being well and how to engage in self-care, incorporate exercise into busy, daily life and age with strength and grace. What struck me immediately, especially given the topics, was the wide spectrum of age groups in the room—women in their 20s, all the way into their 80s—which made it all the more interesting. And, the discussion felt thoughtful and relevant to everyone in attendance.
Looking back today, thinking about the power of women supporting women—which I think we need to cultivate more than ever given political, social and environmental uncertainties—I spent some time to mindfully reflect on what I took away from that evening and the ideas, insights and connections that are shared and created when a group of thoughtful women come together. Here are a few of the takeaways that can help you and women everywhere (men, too!) think and act more creatively to improve wellbeing and cultivate more space, compassion and connection in your busy life.
Aging With Grace and Strength
One woman in the audience spoke about aging and shared that for most of her adult life her birthday would conjure up feelings of angst and even fear. Although many women (men, too) struggle with the idea of turning another year older, she felt that each new year brought her closer to death. Apparently, all of her family members had died young, and all around the same age. As the years ticked closer to that age, her apprehension about her birthday only increased. But, once she made it past those dreaded birthdays, she felt a sudden shift. Rather than resist her birthday, it became something to celebrate and embrace with joy. With this complete shift, she reframed how she thought about aging, which has a considerable effect on how we actually do age. By seeing silver hairs as something earned, wearing smile lines as badges of honor and approaching birthdays with joy, we’re not only able to shift how we perceive aging, but also serve as healthy role models for our daughters, granddaughters and younger women in general. Instead of groaning about your birthday, why not embrace it as another year gained?
Get Creative With Fitness and Self-Care
Mindy Pederson, fitness coach and trainer extraordinaire, lives and breathes fitness. She’s also a business owner and mother of young children. With the limited time she had to engage in her own exercise routines outside of work, she decided to get creative about exercise and put up signs throughout her house. For instance, in the entryway to the kitchen there might be be a sign directing you to run in place for 30 seconds. In the foyer, you may find another sign with instructions to do two lunges. And so on and so forth all over the house. Her kids thought it was great fun, too.
As a busy professional mom with young kids as well, her story reminded me of one of my own. Without time to make it to a yoga class or the gym during the day, I had decided that I’d work out at home at least a few times a week after the kids went to bed. While I thought this was a great idea, the kids had their own agenda and kept calling me upstairs while I was trying to work out. While slightly annoyed that my workout wasn’t happening, I suddenly realized that I was working out by going up and down all those stairs! Excited by my realization, I took it a step further and started doing lunges between their bedrooms. It was great. I was being mom and bettering my level of fitness.
The point is that you don’t have to do fitness a certain way and there’s all sorts of creative ways to integrate it into your life. Often, fitness (like so many other things in life) doesn’t look the way you thought it would look and that’s okay. When we shift our perspective even slightly, new opportunities and possibilities for exercise—and other things, such as practicing mindfulness (which you can do while washing dishing, standing at a checkout line, sitting in traffic, etc.)—open up.
Women Connecting with Women
What struck me most about this event was the healing power of community and connecting. Most of us lingered so long after the panel discussion and questions ended, networking, chatting with each other and making new friends, that we were almost being pushed out the door when the venue was closing. Topics like aging and self-care bring up issues that we’re all dealing with, yet many of us aren’t talking openly and often about them. Yet, when we come together in community and put these ideas and issues out there—talking honestly and openly and knowing that others are dealing with similar challenges—we’re able to let go of some personal fears and release some self-judgment.
Essentially, we’re all dealing with the same things, and so much relief and inspiration can come from sharing openly. I love this quote by Carl Rogers, which I’ve been thinking about since the event.
“What is most personal is most universal.”
Although this wasn’t the first time I spoke at an event like this, GrapeVine Women’s “Live Well Be Well!” evening with all those extraordinary women had an impact on me. We’re all so busy these days, however, it truly is nourishing to get together with other people with a shared sense of intention and purpose. And, it can be done anywhere—at your home, a park or a restaurant. If this inspires you as well, I invite you in the spirit of connection to start something like this in your hometown. Invite five friends and ask each of them to bring a friend. Start important conversations and build a tribe. Goodness knows that we all could use more connection in our lives these days. And, what’s better than an evening surrounded by amazing people who help you expand your mind and engage your curiosity while connecting in meaningful ways?
Samara Vachss Serotkin, Psy.D. is a mindfulness-based psychologist and coach, as well as a mother and wife, based in Seattle, USA. She blogs regularly at www.focusandthrive.com, is a contributor at the Huffington Post, and is the author of two upcoming books.