Lessons From Karma: Building Resiliency One Cup of Tea at a Time

What Goes Around Comes Around

Do you believe in karma?  One of the definitions of karma is the destiny that you earn through your actions and behavior. Perhaps you have even caught yourself saying that something is “good karma or “bad” karma.

Let me introduce you to Karma…..

Good Karma

This mischievous, high- spirited pup is a Portuguese Water Dog.  I gave her the name Karma for several reasons, but mainly because I am a believer in what goes around comes around.  And in true karma nature, she can be “bad” or “good” depending on the day, how much energy she has stored up, or what may or may not be out on the counter!

Tea Lover

What does Karma have to do with resiliency? There is a connection, I promise, but in between that connection lies my love of tea.

I will spare you the long version, but in a nutshell, I love tea.  Recently, while visiting Asheville, NC I decided to treat myself to a trip to a local tea house.  It was a lovely experience–I found a quaint space in the traditional tea room and carefully took my time to pick out just the perfect tea from the menu:   

GUI HUA CHA –”Green Tea with osmanthus blossoms.  A traditional Chinese recipe. Green tea from Anhui province scented with tiny osmanthus flowers from the cinnamon tree. The intoxicating, almost citrus scent from repeated infusions has been an inspiration to Chinese poets over the centuries.”

The tea was served traditional style in a glass teapot with a candle burner to keep it at just the right temperature.—life was good!

So good, that I had my new, favorite loose leaf tea packaged up to take home with me so that I could experience my serene, relaxed state at home.

Fast forward about one week. I am now back home from my trip–Friday rolled around and after a very long and stressful week at work visions of my  GUI HUA CHA Green Tea with osmanthus blossoms danced in my head. Carefully I planned how I would make my tea, sit in my easy chair and sip away my stress.

Plot Twist

When entered my home I knew in an instant that Karma had been “bad” by the “look”. Averting eye contact, nervously thumping her tail on the hardwood floor, and “I’ve been naughty” written all over her face.

I went to the normal ‘crime scene’ in the living room and that is where I found it. My GUI HUA CHA Green Tea with osmanthus blossoms, or at least a few remnants of it, along with the shredded bag all over the floor.

Naughty Karma!

I immediately went into a panic because I know that ingesting things can be harmful to dogs–especially caffeine and possibly dried osmanthus blossoms. I knew I needed to be proactive and ensure that there wouldn’t be any problems.  

Long story short. The tea had a very stimulating effect on Karma–picture Tazmanian Devil dog–and so off we rushed to the Emergency Vet Clinic.


It was the same Emergency Vet Clinic that over 5 years ago we had rushed my first Portuguese Water Dog, Hogan.  Unbenounced to us, he had Hemangiosarcoma (a malignant tumor of blood vessels) on his spleen which ruptured causing internal bleeding and rather sudden passing. This tragic loss sparked a path of grief and desperation. A path I did not want to go down again.

I knew in that moment that I had to be strong.


Here is where resiliency comes in. Resiliency is bouncing back or adapting to difficult or challenging life experiences. I had to adapt quickly and I had to be resilient.

It would be silly of me to ask if you have ever experienced one of life’s inevitable difficulties or had to overcome a challenge–everyone does–unfortunately, it is a fact of life.  What matters most is how resilient you are. How do “bounce back” and become even wiser, stronger, and more personally powerful in the process?

I help people stress less and live more fully. Building resilience is key component.

Here are 4 ways to build resiliency:

  1. Mindfulness: according to Jon Kabat-Zinn, “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” Since resiliency is in part cultivated within us, it is important to be fully aware of how we perceive and choose to respond to stress.  Resiliency is about pausing and observing and then resisting getting stuck in autopilot. It empowers us to move forward–to learn, grow and evolve.
  2. Connection–instead of isolating yourself, surround yourself with family and friends who are supportive and loving
  3. Positivity: Unfortunately, our brains are hardwired for negativity. This is part of the primitive brain and according to Rick Hanson, Ph.D., is a psychologist and New York Times best-selling author, “The brain is like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positives ones.”. Instead of feeding anxiety and worries with negative thoughts and “what if’s”, flip the positivity switch. Find a silver lining, stay present in the moment, and express gratitude (even for the smallest things)
  4. Humor:  It has been said that laughter is the best medicine!  Playful humor enhances resiliency and laughter is well know to decrease stress. Studies show that it actually causes a release of endorphins and dopamine, the feel-good chemicals.

These were just a few ways I was able to find a silver lining in what could have been another tragedy.

Happy Ending

You might be wondering how this all turned out for Karma.  She made a full recovery, but first she was admitted to the doggie hospital for an overnight stay– IV fluids, plenty of peeing to get the tea out of her system, and round the clock vital checks.  

Speaking of humor….my daughter was comforting me in the waiting room and said  “Mom, isn’t it interesting that you are always yelling at Dad & I to “doggy proof” and put things away so Karma doesn’t get them?  This time you were the one who left the tea on the counter…it is kinda like …pause…“karma, huh?”.  Cymbal crash. Mic drop. Bam.

Want to know how much my cup of GUI HUA CHA Green Tea with osmanthus blossoms cost?


…nearly $732.00! Wow, that was quite the pricey cup of tea, but building resilience is PRICELESS!

Press P.A.U.S.E to Stress Less Now!

Stressed Out?

When was the last time you were stressed out? You know…heart pounding, muscles tensing, emotions and thoughts swirling out of control? Maybe you even said or did something that you later realized wasn’t how you would have liked to have responded. Has this ever happened to you?

If you answered “yes”, then you are human. Stress is a fact of life. It is how we respond when our needs are not met. Stress is universal because our needs are universal.

I have heard that human beings experience this phenomenon –needs not being met—8 to 15 times per day!  Whoa…let me repeat that—8 to 15 times per DAY.

Good News/Bad News

I have good news and bad news.  First the good news–stress is a fact of life and it is here to stay. And now for the bad news—stress is a fact of life and it is here to stay.

Wait, what?

Let me explain. First, the good news is that stress protects us.  You may have heard of the Fight-or-Flight response. This primitive physiological response is hardwired and automatic. Its main job is to protect you from immediate physical danger. The classic fight-or-flight example is the saber- toothed tiger chasing a caveman! There is also “good” stress. You know, playing sports, learning a new hobby, ziplining, working toward the completion of a project, pursuing a lifelong dream.

Now for the bad news. Unfortunately, the same hardwired stress response can get switched on when there isn’t an immediate physical threat. Modern-day stressors such as a boring or unfulfilling job, credit card debt, dealing with a difficult co-worker or family member, or juggling competing priorities can all trigger this same fight-or-flight reaction

That’s not all…

When your body gets stuck in this perpetual stress response it leads to chronic issues. It is estimated that 75 to 90 percent of all doctor’s visits are for stress-related symptoms and disease. I would rather be in the other 10 to 15 percent.

How about you?

What if I could show you a simple technique to short-circuit your stress response–in the moment? Would you be interested?

Viktor Frankl, Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust survivor, said  “Between Stimulus and response there is a space. In the space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom”

Keep reading to find out how to access this space–the pause!

Press P.A.U.S.E

Can you think of something or someone that “triggers” you? A situation that you know most certainly will cause you to feel stressed?  Now, I want you to keep that trigger in mind while I walk you through a method that will allow you to stress less and respond in a different—let’s say—better way!

It’s a little acronym I came up with to help in the moment—it’s P.A.U.S.E.

P – Present Moment

Photo by Simon Migaj on Unsplash

The first step to halting the hardwired, programmed response to stress is to get present. Getting present means fully bringing your attention into the present moment.  There are a number of ways that immediately bring you into the present moment. Here are a few:

  • Get grounded-this may be noticing your feet on the floor or noticing your bottom on your chair or as I have heard it termed “where’s my butt?”
  • Breathe-bring attention to your breath. Notice your breath—the inhale, the exhale. Did you know that your breath is a superpower? Using your diaphragm (belly breathing) and extending your exhale sends a message to your brain to calm down. Just breathe…
  • Come to your senses-you can bring attention to each of your 5 senses. What do you see, what do you hear, what do you feel (touch), what do you smell and what do you taste?

A – Awareness

Photo by Lesly Juarez on Unsplash

In the present moment, you notice and become aware of what is happening in your mind and body—your thoughts, feelings, sensations.  Observe what is going on objectively—without judgement. Just notice. From this place you have the space—the power to choose—your response.

U – Unique Self-Regulation Tools

Photo by Plush Design Studio on Unsplash

Self-regulation is your own unique way of regulating your mind and body.  Self-regulation tools might include your ability to reduce or stop the stress response using calming techniques such as breath work, physical movement, or visualizing a peaceful scene.

Self-regulation is also the ability to control your mind and behaviors. You typically do this daily by deciding when you need to sleep, when you need to eat, when you need to take a walk or listen to music.

What might you need right now?  Need to shift your weight in your chair?  Stretch your neck? Take a drink of water? How about take in a deep breath to re-energize you? These are things you may easily overlook or take for granted, but if you pay attention can make a big difference in reducing your stress.

S – Smile

Photo by Sewn Apart on Unsplash

I am sure you have heard the phrase “turn that frown upside down”-

research has proven that smiling can boost your mood.  Psychologists have found that even if you are in a bad mood, you can lift your spirits by smiling.

When you’re stressed, immediately shift your attention. Think of something that always brings a smile to your face. When you smile, here are just a few things it will do:

  • Release endorphins to help relieve your stress
  • Boost your immune system to help your body fight off the “bad guys”
  • Connect with others since it is a universal sign of happiness
  • Share the love since smiles are contagious

Your turn!  Think of something that brings a smile to your face.  Go ahead bring on your biggest, “say cheese grin”. Try it now!  It works!

E – Embrace

Photo by Allie Smith on Unsplash

Embrace self-compassion and be kind to yourself.  When you are stressed and in fight-or-flight mode, your brain is not thinking straight—not thinking at all matter of fact.  Remember, this automatic reaction is…well, just that. Automatic. You may have a sense of urgency to do more and to be more. It is easy to go into overdrive and be hard on ourselves. Have you ever stressed yourself out?

According to Christopher Germer (2009), self-compassion in the moment asks the question “What is it that you need?” This may be acknowledging your unmet needs—like rest, quiet, space, comfort, food, movement, or perhaps social engagement.

When you are stressed out, what can you do to treat yourself kindly?

So, what do you think?  The next time you are stressed, give yourself permission to press PAUSE.  You deserve to stress less and to live more fully. Now!

Are You Living Life to the Fullest?

“Life is short.”

“Live life to the fullest.”

Those short, but profound phrases are why I’m here.  

But before we get to that…

Hi, I’m Michelle and this is my first blog post!  I am more than a bit giddy as I type this … excuse me while I take a deep breath and do my little happy dance to celebrate the fact that I’m feeling the fear but doing it anyway!

You see, I have had “start blogging” on my bucket list for the last two years! I am no stranger to checking off bucket list items, but this, turns out, is well stressful, overwhelming and scary!

But, like I said, I’m doing it anyway.

Back to my story. And my two phrases: life is short, and live life to the fullest.

Several years ago, I was stressed out, burned out and stuck in auto-pilot. I was rushing through life—to do more, accomplish more all while attempting to juggle the demands and responsibilities at work and home.

Life is short.

10-11-2012. The straw that broke the camel’s (my) back.

On that day, I tragically lost my beloved Portuguese Water Dog, Hogan. He was my first “baby” and worked his way deep into my heart.  He was mischievous, energetic, and we referred to him as Hogan Houdini, for his uncanny ability to escape any contained area. Hogan had a tumor growing on his spleen and sometime that day it ruptured and in a blink of an eye he was gone.

This rocked my world. It was the catalyst to the unraveling of many years of stress that I had been carrying around. What started as grief led to stress-related health issues including anxiety and panic attacks. On the outside, I looked like I had it all together, but on the inside not so much. I was disconnected, stressed, overwhelmed and frustrated. Why couldn’t a smart, independent, successful health professional figure it out on her own?

Enter coincidence, happenstance or synchronicity.

It took me a while, but I figured it out. You see, one month before I lost Hogan, I started a 200-hour Registered Yoga Teacher Certification Program.  Having spent my entire career as a Physical Therapist, I had learned all about the human body—about flexibility, range of motion, strength, and how to restore optimal functioning after injury or disease. The addition of the mind-body connection was the missing link for me and the beginning of my own transformational journey. Because of this training, I was able to learn how to use self-care to heal and calm my body during the tragedy that was to come.

Live life to the fullest.

My transformational journey continued in 2014, when I began working with a coach.  This led to remarkable self-discovery and clarity. I started to live intentionally and on purpose—to use my values to guide my decisions and to align my goals with a future vision. This was the icing on the cake!

That transformation led me to want more, so I embarked on a rigorous certification program through the Coaches Training Institute (CTI) to become a CPCC, which stands for Certified Co-active Coach. I also received my Associate Credentialed Coach (ACC) designation through the International Coaches Federation.

And now, because of my training and transformation, I am passionate about helping you to achieve your own transformation–to stress less and live more fully!

Come along!

I invite you to sign up for my “Stress Less, Live More” newsletter. I’ll be sharing powerful tools for transformation, including techniques for reducing your stress, how to outsmart your overwhelm, mindset makeovers, and tips to live life to the fullest mind body & beyond!