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Cycling through life

A friend saw a photo of me from 8 years ago, and she complimented me on how the person I am now seems to be so much more assured and beautiful from within and without. The comment surprised me, because that was a time in my life were it all clicked.

I used to think that growing up was about solidifying who we are. Adding wisdom. Adding experiences to a person that was constant. I now believe that life and identity occur in cycles. That photo came from a time of mastery. I felt like I belonged—everywhere. I felt at the center of all the parts of my life. I had the best collaborator in my research. I had friends and plans and had a clear purpose with my kids.

Eight years later, I find myself moving through a new cycle. We build until that form no longer fits. Much like a crab that has molted its hard exterior, we shed our skin and build anew. Over and over again. We build new versions of ourselves as we change and life changes around us.

Research on life cycles abounds. Astrologists view life cycles as as seven year patterns; numerologists have nine year patterns. Others focus on the framework of a life cycle. Molly Mahar offers a four part cycles of life that I find helpful. The parts are unrest, destruction, growth, mastery.

We begin a new cycle when we feel unease. The unease can come from within. It may also be due to all that is shifting around us. In times of unease and We can ignore the unease until the shift hits us over the head, or we can lean into it. Regardless, we have seasons of destruction. Some can be devastating. Some can be joyful. Some can provide clarity and sometimes confusion.

We are all emerging from the pandemic in a world in which hate is allowed to be spoken so freely. Many of us are questioning how we want to engage with the outer world after our time of isolation. For me, it is also a time when both my parents and my children have moved physically into new phases of their lives. My workplace also looks different and feels different. My colleagues and students are renegotiating their relationship to work, as am I. My own purpose in relation to all of these components of my life have shifted as they shift.

As I move from the “doing” phase of the destruction–the moving of family members, the masking and the vaccinating, the learning to teach online and then learning to teach in person again, the imposed removal of social interaction.

The constant doing of destruction has abated for me. And I am feeling the “now what?” growth phase. This phase feels vulnerable but also has more possibility to grow into a whole range of possibilities. Instead of feeling assured, I have a lot of questions about all of my roles, all of my identities, and who are my “people” in this new era.I have both endured, embraced, and even celebrated the destruction of old ways.

My growth this time will build upon former cycles. We don’t start over. It’s more of a spiral of building upon the foundations of the past. I will rebuild upon my own deep hard work of former cycles. Cycles in which I learned how to befriend my shadow self. How to find orphaned “parts” of my Self that have been scared and vulnerable since childhood. How to breathe. How to connect with my ancestors. How to use sound and rhythm and meditation to find deeper answers.

Enjoying the journey is all the rage, and yet I do admit I love feeling mastery. And the mastery will come again. Yet it is all the other parts of the cycle where the learning really occurs. Where I have the chance to show up and grow. To do better. Be better. As I move again toward mastery, I must focus on gratitude. On the evolving and emerging synergies. Thank myself for all of the work and evolving that I have done to allow me to serve the world and myself in a more authentic way.

Working through a new cycle? A coach can help you along the way. Contact me at dana@danamitra.net to learn more.

Dana Mitra's book, The Empowered Professor: Breaking the Unspoken Codes of Inequity in Academia.Dana Mitra is a faculty coach, career, coach, and leadership coach. She specializes in coaching academics, women leaders, and professionals making career changes.

The Empowered Professor: Breaking the Unspoken Codes of Inequity in Academia – A Conversation

https://anchor.fm/unincorporated/episodes/The-Empowered-Professor-Breaking-the-Unspoken-Codes-of-Inequity-in-Academia—A-Conversation-with-Dana-Mitra-e1gsbb3?fbclid=IwAR3ren–pdiGDlv4-8VgBZR7SxPJPqIXOhRjsRJVx8jyjYE3SxouCy0LcSs

In this podcast, I discuss how academics can find success and fulfillment in their careers. Ian asked me about how faculty can improve equitable conditions within their university, and contribute to staff retention and well-being. Our conversation focuses on my recently released a book entitled “The Empowered Professor: Breaking the Unspoken Codes of Inequity in Academia.” Click on link below to link to how to listen wherever you find your podcasts–including Apple , Google, Spotify, and more.

https://blog.unincorporated.com/empowered-professors-inequity-in-academia

sunset in Santa Fe taken by Dana Mitra. Dana Mitra is a faculty coach, career, coach, and leadership coach. She specializes in coaching academics, women leaders, and professionals making career changes. She now offers sacred breathwork training

Announcing breath work facilitation

Home » active meditation » Breath work for stress release

I’m happy to announce that I am now offering in person and online Breath work Facilitation. Trained by David Elliott, I facilitate breath work workshops that help to reduce stress, clear the mind and release pain and trauma. The breath work is an active meditation that creates the opportunity for powerful healing to occur. This ancient eastern breathing technique allows the conscious mind to relax enabling access to the subconscious mind.

The process itself is a three part breath, through the mouth, lying down. The concentrated breathing helps to bypass the mind to reduce distraction and allow the body to release. Focus on the breath removes the stranglehold of the conscious mind. The increased oxygen alkalizes the body by reducing the acidity in the blood. As the oxygen reaches the brain, it stimulates the hypothalamus gland causing it to release endorphins, which in turn activate the other ductless glands in the body. The brain begins to relax and emotions open and move more freely when the endorphins are flowing. Sessions last an hour.

Contact me for more details dana@danamitra.net

Dana and a feelow healer at a Sunset in New Mexico

Dana and

Dana is a faculty coach, career, coach, and leadership coach. She specializes in coaching academics, women leaders, and professionals making career changes.professionals making career changes.

Join me on the Higher Ed Geek

I speak with Dustin Ramsdell on succeeding in academia, including a discussion of successful academic publishing, work/life balance, and finding ones purpose. I also discuss ways for a university to create a supportive work culture . We focus on highlights my recent book, The Empowered Professor. Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and elsewhere.

https://www.higheredgeek.com/blog/podcast-episode-152-dana-mitra?fbclid=IwAR2yRnpdh8Giu7syfCnOrYkONpZu0ZdaK-edkh-Wl7qrFEMw6xF28ZgyuSY

Enneagram diagram featured on Dana Mitra's website. Dana Mitra is a faculty coach, career, coach, and leadership coach. She specializes in coaching academics, women leaders, and professionals making career changes.

Inner Critics and the enneagram

I speak a lot about inner critics—the demons in our head that hold us back from greatness. They are protective mechanisms that may have served us once upon a time but now hold us back.

I recently learned about an inner critic framework that helps to articulate the common types of saboteurs—the disabling thought patterns that trip us up. Reading through his content, I found that the types of saboteurs discussed by Shirzad Chamine map directly onto the nine types of the enneagram (discussed in my previous blog).

Looking at the saboteur assessment helped me to see how the enneagram can deepen an assessment of my own limiting beliefs. Below, I map the enneagram types to Chamine’s descriptions in the saboteur assessment.

Enneagram TypeEnneagram descriptionSaboteur
One: ReformerIdealistic, rational, moralistic, principledStickler/Judge-  rigid and absolute; highly critical of self and of others; perfectionist
Two: HelperCaring, connected, people-pleasing, generousPleaser–  strong need to be liked; doesn’t express needs directly; martyrdom
Three: AchieverSuccess-oriented, drivenHyper Achiever—workaholic; avoids feelings through performance; worthiness is only possible through accomplishment
Four: IndividualistExpressive, withdrawn, sensitiveVictim– misunderstood, isolated, envious, dramatic
Five: InvestigatorCerebral, data driven, isolated, perceptiveHyper Rational-frustrated by emotion, skeptical and cynical; feels misunderstood
Six: LoyalistCommitted, security-focused, responsible, anxiousHyper-Vigilant- anxious, expecting danger, suspicious
Seven: EnthusiastSpontaneous, fun loving, distractibleRestless—easily distracted, stays busy, seeks to escape pain
Eight: ChallengerLeader, confident, confrontationalController—willful, confrontational, surprised that others are hurt by conflict; angry and intimidating
Nine: PeacemakerConflict resistant, self-effacing, easy goingAvoider– resists conflict and discomfort, downplays own needs and deflects, passive aggressiveness; superficiality due to avoiding

Looking at the chart, consider what common patterns emerge for you that stop you from being vulnerable, from feeling all of the emotions, and from facing fear instead of avoiding it. Ready to tackle those fears? A coach can guide your way.

Enneagram conversation hearts by @mirabellacreations featured on Dana Mitra's website. Dana Mitra is a faculty coach, career, coach, and leadership coach. She specializes in coaching academics, women leaders, and professionals making career changes.

Love each other by learning about each other

With Valentine’s Day coming soon, relationship and personality frameworks are a great opportunity to learn more about all of your loved ones.

I have always been fascinated by frameworks that explain why we are similar and different to others. Both Meyers Briggs and Enneagram are frameworks—a way to communicate a lot of information in a simpler package. A framework is as good as it resonates key concepts well. Any framework emphasizes some things and ignores others. Comparing the two assessments,  the Meyer’s Briggs is more about your innate tendencies whereas Enneagram tends to come from your upbringing—early childhood experiences that caused wounds.

The Meyer’s Briggs assessment is be the most commonly used. The framework focuses on four cognitive aspects of a person—energy, information, decisions, and organization.

Yet I found that I like the Enneagram even more for understanding how we related to one another. I believe that the Enneagram can be a tool for building empathy toward others.

Reading about the nine types helped me to understand why friends and family make the choices they do, and how they see the world differently than me. Embracing this multiplicity of perspectives helps to embrace that our ways of seeing differ and the meaning we gain from experiences varies greatly.

These types of frameworks can help in all types of relationships. In business settings, they can help to dissolve conflict between team members and also help to maximize the strengths of others. In friendships, they can help to heal wounds due to ignorance or different ways of seeing. In parenting, they can help us to build up our kids and to help them navigate through their blind spots.

In romantic relationships, often one pairs with someone with a different set of strengths An entire industry of products and memes exist showing the ways that love can be expressed by enneagram type.

I’m an ENFJ—extroverted, intuitive/big picture, feeling, judging. With the enneagram, I find myself fitting with types 1 and 8–the reformer and the leader. y partner is an Enneagram 9, ISTJ. His patience and peacemaking calm my energy. His attention to details helps me to turn my big ideas into actions that can actually make a difference. I stretch him into more experiences than he might choose alone. 32 years and counting, we complete each other.

Get that stress outta your body

We may think that we are “over” something happens to us. But our bodies might never get the message. Our brains and our bodies don’t always talk to one another. To be free of a difficult event, we might need to midwife that stressor out of ourselves.

In our brains, the actual stressor is separate from the stress. The cognitive brain thinks that if a stressful situation is complete, the moment is over. But Emily & Amelia Nagoski demonstrate that the stress response does not know to stop the emotions of fear, grief, and shame.

Brain scans are teaching us that emotions are chemical reactions that affect every organ of the body. While we tend to think of ourselves as highly rational, this neuroscience research show us all to be highly emotional, with the cognitive brain not having any ability to “control” these emotions.

Stuck emotions in our bodies show up as health issues including anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, and infection. They lead us to numb ourselves through harmful behaviors such as overeating and substance abuse. And they work their way into our relationships when we blame others for the unsettled emotions stuck inside ourselves.

Friends, we’ve gotta get that nasty stuff out of our bodies. The scientific phrase for this process is “attending to the stress response itself.” Viewing these triggers as a gift or recognition of the work that needs to be done. It is only by moving through the dark parts of ourselves that we can feel free enough to be the fullest version of oneself.

Getting rid of the stress response involves intentionally releasing trapped energy in your body. All processes for doing so involve tapping into your body:

-Spend five minutes taking slow, deep breaths. Even better, try a version of yogic breathing.

Laugh or cry heartily until you feel a release.

-Drum with the intention of pulling heavy vibrations into lighter vibrations. You can just use your thighs and your hands to shift your energy, as Jim Donovan teaches.

Seek out a loved one to hug. Tightly. For at least thirty seconds.

Get a massage or other body work. Use a foam roller to massage yourself–notice where you have tightness, sore spots and lean into them.

Trauma is the deepest version of bodies embedding stress responses. When it feels like the inner critic cannot let go and the emotions feel much bigger than an immediate situation at hand, it might signal that an underlying trauma. If paralysis, fear, sadness feels bigger than one can handle, it is an opportunity to work with a helping professional to move through these experiences toward a path of healing.The memories of the trauma will never disappear, but they can become a part of one’s history and rather than taking hostage of the present.

Soccer teammates at State College Area High school featured on Dana Mitra's website. Dana Mitra is a faculty coach, career, coach, and leadership coach. She specializes in coaching academics, women leaders, and professionals making career changes.

Mentors Support Your Path

Professional mentors  can help to reduce isolation and increase connectedness. Through a process of mutual respect and advice, a mentor relationship provides strong ways to build community in a profession. Effective mentors speak clearly and openly about power dynamics. They can talk explicitly about bias and advise on paving the way with critical research agendas critical scholarship that focus marginalized and vulnerable populations.

It is important to form your own chosen team of support for your professional goals. No single person can fill all of the roles that a person needs. Seek out people who seem like a great fit for your personal needs.  Mentors can provide information and introductions to colleagues. They can provide information on the unspoken rules of the academy. They might speak openly regarding political guidance and social capital. Some provide opportunities; others provide a space for confidential conversations.  Mentors can take on various personalities—what I categorize as confidants, political insiders, connecters, sponsors, and hired.

Types of Mentors

ConfidantOffers confidential space for asking messy questions
Political InsiderExplains the politics and unspoken rules of an institution  
ConnecterBrings people together  
SponsorProvides formal and informal opportunities for career advancement
HiredGuarantees time and energy focused on your professional needs

Confidants allow space for asking questions. They are comfortable with emotion and a lack of clarity. They do not judge struggle but instead provide a source of support. A senior professor who also held administrative responsibilities was my “safe place to land” as an assistant professor. An older woman with a background as a guidance counselor, I could shut the door and be messy while processing a difficult conversation with a colleague. She was my advocate and I trusted my ability to share my worries and mistakes with her. 

Political insiders understand the dynamics between colleagues and help to explain the unwritten codes of an institution. Savvy, experienced colleagues, these individuals know how processes and politics truly work. I met regularly with a seniorfemale faculty member of color to understand the politics of my program, including who did not get along with whom. I shared my tenure dossier with her as well since she previously had served on the college promotion and tenure committee, and she gave me pointed advice about how to improve my work. She even advised me, “If you are going to have another kid, have it as quickly as possible. You don’t want a new baby in your fourth or fifth year.”  All of her advice was heartfelt, sincere and golden. I trusted her implicitly.

Connecters. Some mentors introduce you to others and build relationships. My former advisor from graduate school had many research assistants and little time to work with them individually. She built a community structure that included an expectation that students would train and support each other—not just current students but former students as well. She hosted a dinner each year at our discipline’s annual meeting. The dinner served as a space to build and to renew ties with the diaspora of academics who shared the experience of working at the same research center at some point in time. This group of professors continues to remain my strongest network of colleagues as I have moved through my professional career—long past the time that our former advisor retired.

Sponsors will suggest your name for important roles and vouch for you. In my first year on the tenure track, a senior professor invited me to write a chapter for the very prestigious yearbook that he was editing—far before I had established a reputation in my field. He also added me to the associate editors of his journal. He told me what business meetings and associations I should attend and then introduced me to the people that he felt I needed to know at these meetings with a strong endorsement.  I ended up on the executive committee of this association and drew upon my connections in this association for many of my outside letters.

Hired. Often mentor support is not enough to meet all of the needs you might have professionally. A career-coaching model can lead to greater persistence and retention of individuals pursuing academic careers. Coaches and academic consultants can come from a variety of paths to provide their services. One noted affiliation for coaches is membership in the International Coaching Federation (icf.org).  Academic coaches and consultants provide a sounding board, feedback, advice on publishing, research, office politics, time management, goal setting, and work life balance, among other issues. Some focus specifically on improving academic writing. Others focus on leadership for when faculty transition to formal administrative work. Others focus more on coaching—focusing on how individuals have a sense of wisdom on the inside that they can draw up on to find guidance during tough decision processes.

Dana Mitra speaks to women leaders. Soccer teammates at State College Area High school featured on Dana Mitra's website. Dana Mitra is a faculty coach, career, coach, and leadership coach. She specializes in coaching academics, women leaders, and professionals making career changes.

How to choose a life coach

The extra time and space of 2020 is a time to plant seeds for a new way of being once we are out of this pandemic. I expect beautiful blooms to spread across this planet as we re-engage after such a time of collective dormancy. Many of us have come to some pretty big “a-has” about how they want to live life differently as we are beginning to see light at the end of this long tunnel. Choosing a coach to help you along this journey might be the best gift to give yourself in this new year. It seems that there are all kinds of people hanging out a shingle, calling themselves a coach. I encourage you to interview a few coaches before settling on the one that is a best fit for you. I offer some guideposts for discerning quality of training, depth of experience, and fit with your needs.

COACH QUALITY

Ask any prospective coach about the training they have received. The International Coaching Federation is the professional association for coaches. The federation includes a list of coaching programs that it has verified as high quality training. If your potential coach does not have training from one of these high-quality programs, ask why and consider whether the training that they received instead is sufficient. High quality training has received rigorous external review process. These programs have demonstrated that the curriculum aligns with the ICF “definition of coaching, Core Competencies and Code of Ethics.” Training should include enough hours of learning to be a deep and substantial program. The program also should include a certain number of clinical hours that allow for sufficient practice and feedback as a coach.

COACH EXPERIENCE

Ask prospective coaches about the scope of their experience, including certifications received. Coaches differ in education and backgrounds, plus varying coaching certifications. The ICF offers levels of certification–Associate Certified Coach, Professional Certified Coach, and Master Certified Coach. Each level of certification requires a set number of clinical hours coached, plus a required number of professional development hours of additional training. Certified coaches must also engage in many hours of supervision–sharing coaching sessions with a higher ranked coach to receive feedback and paths for improving one’s practice. Again, if your prospective coach is not certified by the ICF or otherwise, find out why.

COACH CHEMISTRY

Assess the vision of your coach with your needs. What is the emphasis of the work that your potential coach provides? Does her background resonate with your professional career? Your spiritual faith? Your background? Perhaps you want someone with similar identities to you; perhaps you want someone with a very different outlook. Have a meaningful conversation with your prospective coach on what they value in a coaching relationship and what their ideal client looks like. Feel the chemistry and see if it will inspire you to stretch into your best version of yourself.

Vision board created in a Dana MItra workshop. Dana Mitra is a faculty coach, career, coach, and leadership coach. She specializes in coaching academics, women leaders, and professionals making career changes.

Visioning what 2021 can be….

If there was every a time for making a vision board, I would suggest that now is it. You have the time. You have the desire for next year to be better than this one. Time to lean in the magic of manifesting what can be.

I’ve run Vision Board workshops all across the country. Each opportunity is a gift of seeing clients light up with possibility. I invite you to engage in this exercise yourself. Perhaps you do it with your family. Or on zoom with good friends. Light a candle. Make a favorite beverage, and drive in to possibility!

I’ll share here the nuggets of what I’ve learned about a successful vision board experience. I draw on two contradictory sources of information–Martha Beck and Jack Canfield. The distinction is how you use the tool. One view is you lean intuitively into putting images on there when you don’t even know what they are, and then keep it in the background–something to explore occasionally to see what is coming up. The second view is to very intentionally and specifically articulate your goals, and then keep that vision front and center in your life so you see it every day. Which path feels right to you? That’s the one to choose!

PART ONE: CREATIVE YOUR VISION BOARD

Create a vision board that represents who you are. Choose words, visions in your head. Write them or sketch them yourself. Or search for them online. Aim for deep resonance. Less is more.

Be as specific as possible. Watch out for what you put on a vision board because you just might get it. The more specific you are, the more you can focus on that vision. The more vague you are, you leave up to the universe to interpret your dreams. And the version of that dream might not actually be what you are hoping for. For example, you could wish for “adventure” and end up having instability in your life that is definitely an adventure but a pathway of adversity rather than excitement.

OR

Use your intuition to find images. Turn magazines upside down and just notice what colors, photos and words you are drawn to find. Or squint your eyes to filter out some of your conscious mind. Keep the brain out of it. Don’t question what you find. Just put it out there and be curious how it makes sense months from now. Focus on your breath and how your body is resonating what what is coming up for you. Martha Beck says:  “Knowing what that thing is will not help you as much as picking it without thought.” Don’t question what you know from an intuitive place. Put down all the messages–the more nonsensical the better

Building Vision Boards at Pendle Hill Conference Center, February 2020

PART TWO: USING YOUR VISION BOARD

FOCUS ON IT: Jack Kanfield says to keep that vision board front and center. Put it by your bedside, or where you brush your teeth. Check in with it daily. Visualize your dreams before you fall asleep each night. Affirm the words and the images. Picture your dreams as if they are already present.

OR DON’T FOCUS ON IT. Martha Beck says, don’t push too hard. Let the magic happen behind the scenes. Stop thinking about what you want out of life. Instead of “results-oriented energy” trust that the process is in motion. Keep that vision board in the background. But remain active with your goals. Take steps toward the dreams but also trust that the magic of the universe is also helping you along. Think if it as a set of images that brings you joy rather than dwelling on the outcomes.

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