Project U. Blog

Connecting Mind and Body

Posted by Catherine Saar on Mon, Feb 25, 2013 @ 03:43 PM

MP900302954 resized 600After years of feeling unable to find my yoga “voice”, I recently began deepening my yoga practice and teaching. I owe that to the inspiration of Matt Sanford, a paraplegic yogi who teaches yoga to able bodied and disabled people and yoga teachers.  After attending a short workshop with him, I remembered that the power of yoga lies in deepening our awareness of the connection between our bodies and our minds, not in creating perfect poses, or in caloric reduction – (although both of those things may also occur as a result of rigorous practice).

My brief time with Matt helped me to touch the impact yoga made on me when I first began practicing.  I was a young married mother, working in corporate America, who began to find a connection to myself through my practice – not even being aware that I had become disconnected!

This is not uncommon for people who have experienced repetitive physical or emotional trauma in their lives.  And lets face it, there are way more of us who have experienced trauma than those who haven’t.  Consider caregivers and first-responders! They see trauma daily.

And here’s what I find most interesting: according to trauma research, trauma ”lives” in our bodies on a cellular level, such that certain sounds, movements, smells, sights, any number of things can act as “triggers” causing us to feel as though we are re-experiencing the event that caused our trauma.  A physical practice, like yoga or martial arts can help release the trauma on a somatic level. (You can read articles about trauma research at )

As human beings, we unconsciously try to protect ourselves from traumatic pain by creating a separation between our mind and our body.  We literally cut off the connection; we “dissociate”.   For example, I sometimes work with coaching clients who claim they cannot feel or cannot identify sensation in their bodies.

This is a handy device in some ways, and unfortunate in others.  When we disconnect ourselves from our somatic pain, we sometimes also disconnect ourselves from our joy – and a ton of other useful information that our bodies can provide to us.

Apparently, I unknowingly, employed this protective behavior.  There were times in my youth that I woke up on a Saturday morning and had no idea of what I wanted to do, or why. The good news is that after I started yoga in the early 90’s, I reestablished a relationship with my body.  I didn’t even realize the transformation in myself.  Looking back now at 15 years of practice, yoga has so integrated me with myself that I nearly always feel centered.  Most of the time, I can perceive what I want and what I need with ease, even under stress.

Yoga reeducated me that my body and my mind need to take care of each other – and helped me to learn how to do this.  In this way, I have developed a loving, caring friendship with myself.

In short, I feel at home in my body. I can relax there.  I no longer discern who is master and who is servant. Mind and body have become partners, cuing each other as to what the other needs and wants.  And I am grateful and joyous to return daily to my mat to calm my mind and to reaffirm its partnership with my body.


Tags: relationship, connection, coaching, transformation, loving, Matt Sanford, emotional, martial arts, yoga, inspiration, disconnected, physical, research, triggers, friendship, grateful, bodies, calm, joy, awareness, caregivers, somatic, caring, integrated, relax, minds, stress, trauma, protective

A Positive Outlook Offers Real Benefits

Posted by Catherine Saar on Mon, Apr 23, 2012 @ 02:33 PM

It's not hogwash.  There is proof that a positive outlook pays off.  To that end, I loved this list of documented positivity benefits by Jon Gordon, author and coach from his latest newsletter. Find out more about Jon and  his many offerings (including a free tele-seminar) at his site

11 Benefits of Being Positive

By Jon Gordon

Over the years I've done a lot of research on the positive effects of being positive and the negative effects of being negative. The research is clear. It really does pay to be positive and the benefits include enhanced health and longevity, happiness, career advancement, athletic performance, team building and financial success. Being positive is not just a nice way to live. It’s the way to live. In this spirit, here are 11 benefits of being positive.

1. Positive People Live Longer - In a study of nuns, those that regularly expressed positive emotions lived on average 10 years longer. (The Nun Study)

2. Positive work environments outperform negative work environments. (Daniel Goleman)

3. Positive, optimistic sales people sell more than pessimistic sales people. (Martin Seligman)

4. Positive leaders are able to make better decisions under pressure. (

5. Marriages are much more likely to succeed when the couple experiences a 5 to 1 ratio of positive to negative interactions whereas when the ratio approaches 1 to 1, marriages are more likely to end in divorce. (John Gottman)

6. Positive people who regularly express positive emotions are more resilient when facing stress, challenges and adversity. (Several Studies)

7. Positive people are able to maintain a broader perspective and see the big picture which helps them identify solutions where as negative people maintain a narrower perspective and tend to focus on problems. (Barbara Fredrickson)

8. Positive thoughts and emotions counter the negative effects of stress. For example, you can't be thankful and stressed at the same time. (Several Studies)

9. Positive emotions such as gratitude and appreciation help athletes perform at a higher level. (

10. Positive people have more friends which is a key factor of happiness and longevity. (Robert D. Putnam)

11. Positive and popular leaders are more likely to garner the support of others and receive pay raises and promotions and achieve greater success in the workplace. (Tim Sanders)

Visit Jon's site for more insights and goodies.  BTW, I found item 8, "Positive thoughts and emotions counter the negative effects of stress", the most useful reminder for mastering everyday living.  What resonated for you?

Tags: career, Jon Gordon, appreciation, optimistic, gratitude, longevity, better decisions, athletic performance, coach, stress, postitive thoughts, leaders, work environments, success in the workplace, benefits, happiness

The Secret to Having Enough Time

Posted by Catherine Saar on Mon, Apr 02, 2012 @ 11:06 PM

stopwatchiStock 000013901118XSmallTime crunched?  I love the solution reported by columnist Gareth Cook in a Boston Globe article called "Getting It All Done."  Check it out - I pasted it here in its entirety for your reading convenience:

America has a time problem. About half of us tell pollsters that we don’t have enough time to do what we want. Another survey found that most people would prefer two more weeks of vacation than two more weeks of pay. And every new “labor-saving’’ technology - e-mail, smart phones - seems to make things worse, not better.

Books for the time-starved and productivity-challenged would fill a small library. Beyond the books, there are the seminars, videos, apps, and “methods’’ (like “Getting Things Done’’) - which feature books, videos, seminars, and apps.

Yet for all the advice that has been offered, I doubt anyone has come up with the bit of wisdom on offer from a professor at Harvard Business School: Spend more time doing things for other people.

This is, of course, completely absurd. How could taking on another task possibly help?

The answer has to do with the important distinction between time - that thing that can be measured with atomic clocks, that marches on, merciless - and subjective time, our experience of the flow of events. And this is why the advice, the product of recent scientific study, is both unexpected and wise.

“It is not so much how much time you have,’’ says Harvard Business School’s Michael Norton, “as how you feel about what you can get done in the time that you do have.’’

Norton, working with Cassie Mogilner at the University of Pennsylvania and Zoe Chance at Yale, arrived at this conclusion through a series of investigations into our perception of time. Students were asked to either give time away (writing an encouraging note to a gravely ill child) or waste time (counting instances of the letter “e’’ in a Latin text). Afterwards, the letter writers felt that they had more time, according to a survey.

But maybe, the researchers reasoned, doing the time-wasting task was simply unpleasant, and this bad mood made people feel they had less time. So they did another experiment, asking students on a Saturday morning to do something they hadn’t planned to, either for themselves or for someone else. They found that the people who did a good turn for another felt like they had more time.

Finally, they did an experiment that got right to the heart of the matter. They told a class that, at the end of a lab session they would be helping at-risk students from a local high school by editing an essay they were working on. When the time came, half were given the essays to work on, and the other half of the class was told that there were no more essays to work on, and they could leave early.

Here, then, the researchers were comparing the effect of doing something for someone else, and having a sudden, unexpected windfall of time. As they report in the journal Psychological Science, the people who helped with the essays said that they felt they had more time to take care of their work than the people who’d been given free time.

Allow this strange fact to sink in: The best solution for not having enough time is not being given more time.

It turns out that people are extraordinarily bad at estimating how much time a task will take to complete; this is known in psychology as “the planning fallacy.’’

“One of the things that can happen when you are overbooked or overstressed is that even the tiniest thing that comes up can feel insurmountable,’’ says Norton. “We have all had the experience of getting that one more email and feeling like, ‘Oh, I am doomed.’ ’’

The planning fallacy means that we have a poor sense of how much effort it will take to complete that to-do list we carry around with us. And this, in turn, means that the stress we all feel - How can I get it all done? - is only loosely connected to reality.

Norton argues that doing something for someone else provides a tremendous boost in our confidence that we can get things done. It makes us feel in control of our lives - effective. The future feels more open.

There is certainly an upper limit to this effect, a point at which the hours of helping others become an additional stress. And, clearly, improving one’s time-management skills is bound to help.

Yet the research solves a central paradox: Americans feel daunting time pressures, and yet, by any historical measure, they have a tremendous amount of leisure time. We are all busy, yes. But we also labor under potent illusions, and isn’t it a wondrous thing that we can help ourselves see through them by lending a hand to someone else?

Gareth Cook can be reached at

Thanks Gareth, for reporting on that awesome insight!

Tags: boost in confidence, Gareth Cook, more time, time-starved, overstressed, effective, Boston Globe, stress, Harvard Business School, insurmountable, time-management skills, Michael Norton, leisure time, pressures

Five Paths Back to Your Authentic Self

Posted by Catherine Saar on Thu, Mar 08, 2012 @ 11:01 AM

homepageiStock 000011612569SmallbutterflyHave you ever noticed that when you are doing what you love, you feel peaceful, clear and alive? You feel like you have energy to go on for hours without tiring and you can’t wait to do it again.  In these moments, you are aligned in body, spirit and mind.  All is well with the world.

On the other hand, when you’re not excited about getting out of bed in the morning or you find yourself exhausted all the time, check in.   If nothing seems good enough, is it because you are spending all your energy keeping up appearances to fit into other’s expectations?  Are you possibly living by your own faulty assumptions and expectations about what your life “should be”?

Listen for the whisper of your authentic self.  When you engage in activities that please your parent(s), your lover or someone other than you, chances are, you are not honoring your truth.    The funny thing about that is that your truth won’t leave you alone.  It pushes on you, often in some subconscious way, creating stress and fogginess.  Sometimes you may even create bad habits like overeating or engaging in substance abuse to better ignore that small voice nagging at you, trying to tell you,  ‘something is not right here.’

We are often afraid to hear what our inner voice has to say.  There may be guilt, anger, conflict and ultimately, a need to take corrective action if we are courageous enough to allow ourselves to pay attention. But that voice is your friend.  It is the voice that wants you to experience the joy of aligning to your life purpose.  Like a good friend, it will keep nagging you to do the right thing for you.  

I won’t kid you.  If you’re not in the habit of honoring your authentic self, it can be a challenging journey to acknowledge who you are.  You may disappoint some people in your life.  You may leave some others behind.  You may need to start a new career.  It can be scary – BUT, the place it will lead you - back to yourself - will be incredibly meaningful and empowering.   

If you aren’t sure where or how to start to listen to your inner voice, here are some of my favorite resources and ideas to get you started:

1) Start a mindfulness or a meditation practice of your choice.  Any mindfulness practice will put you back in touch with yourself.  There are tons of resources online – and practices come in many flavors.  Explore and experiment. 

2) Create space and time in your life to do more of the things you love.  Take 30 minutes a day (or more) to do something for you.

3) Find a book to guide you.  Here are some of my favorites:  

4) Work with a coach.  Individual or group coaching can be useful if you want a partner to help support and guide you toward clarity about your authentic path.  (More on this)

5) Work with a therapist.  Therapy may be extremely beneficial for certain situations.  If you have experienced trauma, or face serious emotional issues or medical conditions, including anxiety and depression, working with a psychotherapist may be an important first step to finding your way.

Once you find your personal truth and accept who you are and what you value as being good and worthwhile, you can begin to make choices that lead you to more joy.  Take a breath and listen.  Know that you are worth it.

Interested in a complimentary 30-minute coaching consultation?  Call me at 781-237-3420 or send me an e-mail at  to find out how you can clarify your goals and make your dreams come true.

Tags: coaching, clarity, conflict, peaceful, spirit, expectations, your truth, substance abuse, guilt, courageous, empowering, explore, Martha Beck, Barbara Sher, body, doing what you love, clear, aligned, mind, keeping up appearances, authentic self, overeating, afraid, meditation, things you love, The Artist's Way, Julia Cameron, choices, make your dreams come true, inner voice, coach, goals, energy, exhausted, stress, bad habits, anger, life purpose, new career, meaningful, mindfulness, experiment, The Joy Diet, I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was, trauma, emotional issues, complimentary coaching session, passion, creativity, therapy, breath, worth