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All articles here are written by Melinda Briana Epler (that's me!) unless otherwise noted. I'm a documentary filmmaker, writer, and brand experience designer - I've dedicated my life to living a sustainable lifestyle and helping others do the same. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or thoughts for articles. Welcome!

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What Are Your Plans For 2012?

I had a transformative vacation the week before Christmas.  I left Seattle thinking I was headed to a sunny resort for a little R&R, and I returned a week later quite changed.  Wonderfully changed.

Matt and I went to Miraval.  I’d never been to a resort before – never felt I could or should.  But this one was different.  The tag line is “you won’t find you anywhere else.”  I admittedly scoffed at it when I first heard it.  But I did begin to find me there.

I spent a week being me, investigating me, and nurturing me.  I cleaned the feet of horses, meditated using many different methods, faced some of my fears, allowed my emotions to be raw and exposed….

I also did Chi Gong, Reiki, Thai massage, Shiatsu, Ayurvedic therapy, psychotherapy integrating a horse (!), Gin Shou Tui Na (incorporating cranial sacral massage with a Chinese balancing massage), a full Chi journey, and Chi Nei Tsang (an abdominal “massage”).

I couldn’t begin to tell you the details all in one post (I may go through some of those experiences in other posts if you’re interested), but suffice it to say that I am renewed, reinvigorated, and rebalanced – taking life a little differently, a little more thoughtfully, and with greater awareness and presence.

For this reason, I wanted to lay out my New Year Goals before the 1st, so that I can enter 2012 with full intentions.

My 2012 Personal Goals

  1. Increase My Energy Levels with:
    • exercise
    • nutrition
    • meditation & self-compassion
    • balance & alignment
  2.  Increase My Strength:
    • physically
    • mentally
    • emotionally
  3. Increase My Self Knowledge by finding comfort, forgiveness and hope in:
    • the past
    • the present
    • the future

My 2012 Professional Goals

  1. Create a Five-Year Plan.
  2. Aggregate all I know and do into a System that can be replicated.
  3. Grow my business by 20%, following a specific Growth Plan.

My 2012 Citizen Goals

  1. Have a book outline complete by the end of the year.
  2. Become a regular writer.
  3. Work diligently in the garden:
    • as a neighborhood citizen.
    • as an educator and inspirer.
    • as a healthy human being.

My 2012 Guiding Principles

  1. Compassion - for myself and others – without judgement.
  2. Continuous presence - being, growing, and learning from each present moment.
  3. Self-healing – allowing myself those important moments to grow, love and recharge.

What I’m Striving Toward for the Long-Term

  1. Solid personal direction, compassion and resilience.
  2. Forgiveness for what doesn’t matter, empathy and strength for what does, and shining hope for what will become.
  3. Professionally, my every moment has importance and leads toward positive global impact.

I look forward to 2012 with open arms.  I think it’s going to be a good year!

How about you?

What are your goals, big or small?

Will you make yourself a list of goals or a Wellness Plan this year?  You’re welcome to use the outline I’ve created to begin!

On the eve of my 40th birthday


I remember when my mother turned forty. Back then, in the 80s, they called it “over the hill” and had black-themed party decorations and cards about how close to dead you already were.

When my mom turned 40 I was a teenager. I can’t even imagine what that would be like, to have a teenage daughter right now. She had also owned 3 houses by the time she turned 40. First she had a career as a teacher, and then she became a full-time mom. My dad had had the same job for close to 20 years. They were settled.

I live in an apartment – one in a series of rentals throughout the US over the last 20 years. I’ve been married for just 5 years, my husband is in school. I’ve got 3 degrees (nearly 4), I’ve worked in several industries and am making my way in a new one.

A client asked me the other day how long I’ve had my own company. I had to stop and think. “I’ve never done anything else,” I said. And he replied, “Wow, I’ve never met a serial entrepreneur before!”

I’ve never thought of myself as that. It’s just what I do. The epitome of what I do is unsettled. And impermanent.

This year my grandfather turned 100, and he too has been doing quite a bit of reflecting. I think there are points in our lives that society tells us are milestones. For me it was 14, 25 and 40. So far.

“I’m gonna be forty!” Meg Ryan. “When?” Billy Crystal. “Someday!” Meg Ryan. When I was young I watched that scene in “When Harry Met Sally” and thought 40 was such a distant future.

Why 40? I think it’s because when you’re younger you see 40 year olds as true adults. Old adults. People middle-aged, heading for retirement. People who have figured out where they’re headed in life and they’re on their way there.

So it’s only natural when you get to that age finally, to ask yourself “am I headed there?” If you then ask yourself “where?” it seems like maybe you have a problem. I don’t know where I’m headed. Am I headed in the right direction? I think so. I never dreamed it would be such a circuitous route though!

I’ve done a lot. I have worked with children in multiple capacities and ages (art camps, soccer refereeing, drug and alcohol recovery, day camps, housing projects). I’ve worked myself up in the film industry – first as a set decorator and art director and then as a documentary filmmaker. I’ve created multiple behavior change campaigns – for asthma, microfinance, sustainability, civic engagement and exercise. I’ve been founding member of a startup. And failed. And have done it again. I’ve helped multiple corporations and governments to plan and innovate over the next 10 years. And I’ve helped several successful startups get off the ground.

Oh, and I’ve written a blog. For 3 years. And as I hear from readers, it sounds like I’ve made a true impact here. (Thank you, for all of you, who have told me this – it means a great deal and keeps me writing!)

So here’s the whammy: I feel I’ve only just begun. I have a lot of life left to live, a lot to do with all the knowledge and skills I’ve picked up over the years.

And I haven’t accomplished what I wanted to yet. Not by a long shot. I want to create substantial positive change in the world. It’s what I set out to do back around the time my mom turned 40.

I don’t know how to get there. I don’t feel like I’m middle-aged, certainly not close to heading for retirement. I wonder how a teenager would view me now.

Is it all in the perception, or is the world different now?

A Year About Me - Month 10

Hello!  Long time no see – I’ve missed you all.  I apologize for my lengthy absence!  I have been working on me, as I promised you at the beginning of the year.

I realized almost a year ago that I needed to rethink how I was treating My soul, My lungs, My body, My relationship, and My mind.  I wasn’t nurturing myself and I was taking my self for granted.  As a result, I wasn’t very healthy.

Re-Visiting My Wellness Plan

In January, here’s what I said:  By the End of the Year I Hope To…

Lift my arms over my head!  How am I doing?  Well, at the beginning of the year, I couldn’t get much past lifting my arms to straight in front of me.  So sad!  And now I have just a few degrees to go before I can lift them all the way over my head.  That’s due to stretching, yoga, and an amazing massage therapist who has helped cut through years of scar tissue in my frozen shoulders.

Learn to live happily gluten-free.  I’m still gluten-free and getting used to asking about ingredients in stores and restaurants. I’ve even started becoming dairy free this month. My body LOVES it.  I was a size 8 in January.  Now I’m a size 2.  I actually haven’t lost a lot of weight, most of it has been inflammation.

Figure out my next career step.  I’m getting a whole lot closer.  I now have several clients who are all doing amazing work – it’s extremely gratifying to help them do their work better, and I’m feeling increasingly empowered and effective as a consultant.  You can see what I’m doing here.  Every week my feet are more firmly planted in the consulting and storytelling world, and my stress level decreases.

Reduce my medications for asthma to just the rescue inhaler.  I have reduced my asthma meds over the years from seven down to just one now, aside from the rescue inhaler.  I got rid of 2 of them just this year.  I think it’s going to take a little longer than I expected, but I have confidence that I’ll be able to get rid of that one too in 2012.

Exercise regularly.  I walk to work every day – that’s about 2 miles a day.  I was doing yoga about 4-5 days/week until I injured myself.  Since then I’ve been working back up to yoga by doing a few gentle or Yin classes, plus stretching and exercises.  I am going to take a few private classes so I can learn to modify my practice to take better care of my body.  So I still hope by the end of the year I’ll be back to doing yoga regularly.

Increase my number of social interactions.  I have done this.  Some.  Though I get busy.  And lazy.  Still.  I am saying “yes” more!

Decrease my number of negative thoughts, words, and actions.  I could work on this for the rest of my life, for sure.  I am a little better than at the beginning of the  year, but this is one that needs revisiting and recommitting.

Have a healthy garden we regularly eat from.  Since we moved closer to our p-patch, I have done a much better job of keeping it up.  The neck and arm pain has kept me from being the star gardener this year, but I am excited for the spring.  I think it’s going to be a good garden season.  And we have winter crops growing now, too.

Write more, and write about the things I want to write about.  Harumph.  As you can see, I have neglected my writing.  The arm and neck injuries again have been a big culprit.  But I have confidence it will be coming back over the next couple of months as the pain subsides and strength reforms.

Spend more time outside of work with my family.  Yes – I’ve done this!!  Hooray!  It has been incredibly enjoyable.  And one thing I didn’t have on my wellness plan but is becoming increasingly clear is the importance of spending time with myself outside of work.  I’ve learned to do that quite a bit more as well.

Become more in touch with my physical and mental wants and needs.  Yes, so this is an essential component of healing.  Every time I make progress in this arena, I find there is a new level of growing and learning.  It is fascinating and very rewarding.

Part of this is understanding that when I have neck pain, it’s not just about the neck, for example.  It is about the need for a new glasses prescription (I was leaning my neck to be able to see), long-term shoulder problems (not allowing my neck to heal), stress (tensing up without even knowing it), working too long of hours (putting added strain on my body), and more.

Reduce and maintain a lower weight that feels good.  I could lose a couple more pounds to feel really good, but I’m pretty darn close.  I’m much happier with my body today than I was a year ago.  Though to the point above, it’s not just about the weight, it’s about the diet, the inflammation, the exercise, and the mental wellbeing.

 

How About You?

How have you done with the promises you’ve made to yourself this year?  Have you stuck with them?

Do You Use An Eco-Friendly Air Freshener?

I’ve been receiving a lot of reader questions lately.  It seem you all are pushing me to write again!  Ok, I’m trying to clear off my work load so I can get back to writing.  I miss it, too!

In the meantime, anyone have some good solutions for Sam?

Hi Melinda,

Do you have any suggestions on what one could use to freshen up a room or kitchen that is both cost effective and not damaging to ones health?

I use the store bought air fresheners but I am thinking they are probably not all that healthly am I right? There has to be another way? Any comments or advice would be great!

Regards,
Sam

I don’t really use air freshener, so any help you all have would be lovely!

What's Your Favorite Crop to Plant In the Fall?

Scarlet Runner Beans

Hello everyone!  I’m so sorry I’ve been out.  Lots going on with me of late – I look forward to having some time soon to write about it!

In the meantime, I’ve had several questions via email about what to plant in the fall.  So I thought I’d open up the question to all you gardeners out there.

What’s Your Favorite Crop to Plant In the Fall?

I’d love to know, too!   So – what do you plant in the fall?  What is your favorite plant to harvest in winter?

The Abyss of Pain

Many of you have written wondering where I’ve been. Many thanks to all of you who left me good wishes via email and Facebook.

A few weeks ago I started feeling a dull pain in my elbow. A week later, I had pretty severe pain in my neck. Soon after, the pain radiated from my neck, through my shoulders, down my arm, and into my fingers. Finally, it was accompanied by occasional numbness and a feeling that my elbow was on fire.

Over a few weeks, I was in so much pain that I couldn’t think straight!

First Stop

First stop on the road to wellness, I went to a conventional physician – a new one because we have new health insurance.  She evaluated me for 2 minutes or so (no kidding) and told me I had nondescript pain in my neck and shoulders, with fairly severe tennis elbow.  Then she gave me a referral to physical therapy.  And that was it.

Second Stop

I promptly called physical therapy, and they told me I couldn’t see one person for those three different things: they had a neck and shoulders physical therapist, and an elbow therapist – I’d have to see both.  And the next available appointment was 1 week away for the neck and shoulders, and 3 weeks away for the elbow.  Oh, and they were in two different locations.

Trying to explain that my neck bone was connected to my shoulder bone, and shoulder bone is connected to the elbow bone… didn’t work. Nope, there wasn’t anyone who could do that.

I was in so much pain my eyes were tearing, I was grumpy, and I was having real difficulty concentrating on my work.  The only time the pain subsided at all was if I was lying in bed in one particular position. And here I was faced with another 3 weeks of this sharp, radiating pain before comfort was even in sight.

Third Stop

So I made an appointment with my Naturopathic Doctor.  He saw me just 2 days later.

Instantly Kevin sensed I was in a lot of pain.  He spent 1/2 hour with me, learning exactly what was going on – by talking, moving and feeling my joints, and testing my strength and mobility.

His diagnosis:  Nerve pain in my neck.  I have a bad disc in my neck, that was probably injured back when I was in a car accident long ago and has now been re-injured.  Ah, I realized, I’ve had tingling in my fingers for a long time.

At the same time, I managed also to get tennis elbow – probably from hyperextending my arms in my new yoga practice.  So the two injuries were aggravating one another.  (Because the neck bone is connected to the shoulder bone… and so on.)

Kevin gently and carefully adjusted my neck and back. He gave me exercises. And pharmaceuticals (at that point I was ready). And specific vitamin supplements – for short-term and long-term healing. And orders to rest and ice as often as possible. And orders to make my desk even more ergonomic than it already is.  And to modify my yoga postures when I go back to yoga.

That was 2 weeks ago. I am finally able to concentrate for a full day at work.  Though I still get awfully tired – I have a difficult time getting up in the morning and I’m ready to go home by 4pm, exhausted. The pain is still there but it’s not mind-numbing anymore.

The Abyss Of Pain

I’m sure some of you have been to this place:  the abyss of pain.  It’s a cloudy-headed, self-absorbed, cranky and impatient, dark hole of dispair and disrepair.  In that abyss, your brain can really only focus solidly on the immediate needs before you.

Have you been there?

It’s terrible. I’m lucky that the people around me understand, support and forgive me.

If  you ever find yourself in that abyss, first be sure to tell others around you what you’re going through – otherwise they won’t know, can’t support you, and might be less willing to forgive you for your impatience. And second, be sure to advocate for yourself until you get the care you need to overcome the pain.

Now it’s like a fog is lifting. I can write again. I can see the bigger picture again – the bigger picture of life, of business, of the planet…

Hello again.

When You Align With The World…

Back in January, I wrote about this year becoming a Year About Me, making sure that I have what I need in my life and that I follow my own dreams.  These are the things many people have thought about in their 40th year, no doubt.

At mid-career, with many skills built up, a family and a home, the question lingers: have you done everything you want to do? And if the answer is no, then get on it already!

Media That Matters

A month ago, I attended a retreat in British Columbia.  Several of you have wrote lovely emails thanking me for the words that fell out of me on the road home from that conference.  It was an amazing experience.

Right at the beginning of the retreat, I checked my email for the last time before unplugging for the week.  There was an email from a man I’d met and worked for on a small video shoot a year ago:  he had just begun producing a documentary and he wondered if I’d be interested in working on it with him. I told him I would get back to him in a week, and promptly unplugged.

At the conference, surrounded by media makers of all kinds, my next career steps swiftly crystalized for me: I have a unique gift in being able to communicate stories in a wide variety of media.  I have, in various ways over the years, used that talent to create positive behavior change in others.  I have been working for a very long time toward accruing these talents and skills, and at long last I am ready to take my work to the next level!

Transformation happened in those woods, and I freed myself to do what I needed to do.

At the end of the week breathing in the beauty, I’d realized I was ready to move from my high-paying corporate anchor client back to the work I really set out to do in my life.  I’d learned, I’d paid some of my loans, and it was time to move on.

It has been scary, but also comforting – like finding my way home.

ReAlignment

When I got back home, I was re-energized.  Like I was 25 again, excited at the possibilities and convicted in my dreams.

I worked hard to finish my website, to visualize my vision, to jump into the next phase.  I started talking about my work with other people more, no longer bashful about it.  Somehow the “what I do” conversation became so much easier.

Two days later I called the man with the documentary.  We talked for 4 hours.

It turns out Jon has been on a similar journey, trying to figure out how to create sustainable change in the world.  By the end of our 4 hours, we were discussing how to bring large environmental organizations together to empower them to do their work more efficiently and effectively.  We were discussing how to incentivize businesses to operate more sustainably through community storytelling.  And we dove deeply into how to take people beyond awareness of climate change, and help them get to the next stage:  how do we help people change their lifestyles?  What tools and guidance can we offer to make that transition easier and more effective?

ReFocus

We had our first day of shooting the documentary last week.  It required Jon and I to be one on one together for 23 hours.  We took each of those amazing topics and discussed them at two levels deeper.  And so it goes…

We are now discussing building a business together.  I’ve launched the Elements In Time website.

And that’s not all.  Work has been steadily rolling in.  Good work, meaningful work.  The world has aligned with me as I’ve aligned with it.

Here are some of our clients right now:

  • American Association of Colleges and Universities
  • Countywide Community Forums
  • Friends of the Cedar River Watershed
  • Health Advocacy Strategies
  • Patient Health Perspectives
  • Carbon Cycle Crush

Suddenly I’m helping a several great organizations to do their work better.

I’m proud I’ve taken the time to focus on a year about me.  It’s only half over, and so much good has happened already.  I can’t wait for next month!